About Dr. Gourmet

My name is Timothy Harlan and I am both a physician and a chef. This blog is a general collection of information and random ideas on eating great food and eating healthy.

You can find out more at the Dr. Gourmet web site. Eat well, eat healthy, enjoy life!

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Cooking for One; Orzo; More : Ask Dr. Gourmet

Dear Dr. Gourmet,

Q: Hello, I work for a UK based nutrition and preventative health web site, so we are looking to link to other sites which will be of help to UK based folk. I really like your site and the concept, but, please, what is “orzo”? You have a receipt for a Lemon Basil Orzo Salad, but I (a pretty experienced cook) haven’t heard of it. A glimmer of a thought: is it barley?

A: “Orzo” is indeed the Italian word for barley, but the orzo recipe you mention is for the barley shaped pasta known as orzo.

With many pastas it is the shape that became the suggestion for the name. Orzo is a smallish pasta about the size and shape of barley. Similarly, riso is the shape of rice, farfalle is the shape of bow ties, pappardelle resembles paper, etc.. What is ‘orzo’? »

Q: In February, our Cardiologist put my husband on a low carb diet to bring his triglycerides under control. He also indicated it would be good for both of us to lose weight.

We have been using a food tracker to monitor our diet. The tracker looks at Calories, Fat, Sat Fat, Cholesterol, Sodium, Carbs, Sugar, Fiber and Protein.

. . . What I am searching for specifically is a chart giving the proper intake for nutritional values, noted above in red, for people our age. We want to know what maintenance values will look like. The only one I know for sure is 2400mg or less of sodium. . . . Do you have such a chart?

A: There is certainly a great deal of controversy about low-carbohydrate diets, and I do not feel that this is the best plan for long term health or for sustained weight loss. There is some evidence that making substitutions of more complex carbohydrates for simple sugars can be beneficial for such markers of cardiac disease risk as triglycerides.

Some of the issue with a low-carb diet is that once they lose the desired amount of weight, most people return to the way they were eating prior to going on the diet. In the US this means a diet high in simple sugars, refined carbohydrates, and saturated fats. The diet that you are following now doesn’t limit carbohydrates as severely as some do, however. As you move toward your goals, liberalizing the amount of carbohydrate can help you eat healthy for years to come.

For this reason I prefer to recommend a plan that is higher in carbohydrates but with a strong emphasis on very complex carbs such as legumes, cereals, and whole grains. This coupled with a moderate amount of protein and about 30% of the diet in fat has been time and again shown to be the most reasonable. Here’s a chart »

Q: I have recently been diagnosed with CHF and have been placed on a 2000 mg low sodium diet. Your recipes sound wonderful, but I am cooking for ONE. Would you find some recipes for single people, please?

A: I do realize the challenge in cooking for one person. Often our recipes can be divided to serve one or two or will keep well to use as leftovers. For breakfast, for example, the pancake recipes can be divided to make only one serving, and all of the muffin and quick bread recipes keep well. Our low sodium main course recipes are listed in our Low Sodium Diet section.

We now have a recipe index specifically for those cooking for one or two people. These recipes typically take thirty minutes or less to cook and in almost all cases they will keep well so that if you’re cooking for one, you can make a recipe that serves two and you’ll have tomorrow’s lunch as well. Cooking for one »

Have a question? Send it to askdrgourmet@drgourmet.com and your question may be answered in this newsletter. Dr. Harlan regrets that due to time constraints, he can not answer all questions submitted. Your question may already have been answered in our Ask Dr. Gourmet archive.

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Food Safety and Recipe Ideas : Dr. Gourmet Newsletter

Here in the United States it’s Memorial Day, when we remember the military service men and women who fought and died for their country.

It’s also the unofficial start to Summer, and a day many people celebrate by gathering with friends and family for outdoor activities, including picnics and barbecuing. Here are two columns on food safety to remind you of the best ways to keep your party from turning into a trip to the emergency room.

Dr. Tim Says….

Unfortunately, in this day and age you do have to be very careful when handling eggs, meats, and poultry. The estimates by the CDC of contamination with bacteria are concerning. This is more of a problem with eggs, ground meats and poultry than with steaks, chops, and seafood, but taking care to make sure that you are both handling and cooking meats properly can help you avoid getting sick.

First and foremost, keep your ingredients ice cold until just before you are ready to cook them. Letting your chicken sit warming in the sun while you are getting the grill started is not a good idea. Keep those burgers and chicken pieces on ice or in the refrigerator until the very last minute.

It is also important to be very careful when choosing your ingredients. Use the freshest beef, chicken or turkey possible. If there is any odd odor, don’t use it. Only cut meats on a plastic cutting board and wash the cutting board, your hands, and your knives in soapy water as soon as you are finished. This reduces the risk of spreading the bacteria to other foods. Safe minimum cooking temperatures »

The Health of It All: Picnic Safety

In medical school, we learned that when a patient comes in with a “stomach flu” or Montezuma’s Revenge, we should ask about whether the patient had been to a picnic or eaten off of a buffet recently. This is because bacteria don’t tolerate heat over about 160°F or less than about 38°F. Unfortunately, most people who bring dishes to picnics or pot luck suppers (and many restaurants with buffets) don’t think too much about how happy bacteria is between these temperatures – especially at room temperature. Picnic safety »

Picnic and BBQ Recipe Ideas

Red Potato Salad
Potato Vinaigrette Salad
Avocado Potato Salad
Traditional Carrot Salad
Cole Slaw

Barbecue Sauce
Cajun Barbecue Sauce
Sweet Chipotle Barbecue Sauce
Barbecue Shrimp
Barbecue Chicken

Strawberry Shortcake
Strawberries with Balsamic Chocolate Sauce
Chocolate Sauce

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More reviews from the Dr. Gourmet Time Machine : Reviews by Dr. Gourmet

Amy’s Kitchen

Black Bean Burrito and Burrito Especial Revisited

This week we’re continuing to revisit older reviews to see what, if anything, has changed.

Amy’s Black Bean Burrito and their Burrito Especial were two of the first reviews we did for the web site, and the outcome was mixed. While the Black Bean Burrito was pretty good (we gave it 3 1/2 forks out of 5), the Especial was considered “not very especial.” In the more than a decade since the first reviews, had anything changed?

A look at the labels tells us that something has. The Black Bean Burrito now has 10 fewer calories, significantly more sodium (100mg more), and more fiber (+2grams) than it had before: the current version has 290 calories, 680 milligrams of sodium (that’s 2.3 milligrams of sodium for every calorie!), and 6 grams of fiber.

Meanwhile, the Burrito Especial has 40 more calories, the same amount of sodium, and a little more fiber: today’s burrito contains 300 calories, 620 milligrams of sodium (slightly over 2 milligrams of sodium per calorie), and 4 grams of fiber. Burritos Revisited »

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Mashed Potatoes with Spinach and Garlic : New Recipes @ DrGourmet.com

Mashed Potatoes with Spinach and Garlic

I had a version of these potatoes at a restaurant recently but they were too creamy and pasty. I like to leave some chunks of potatoes. If you like them smooth, be careful because over mashing will result in pasty potatoes.

The key to good mashed potatoes is in the buttermilk / milk combination. The buttermilk adds richness and tartness, with little to no fat, and the milk adds creaminess. The butter is used here only as a flavor enhancer.

Chicken Salad with Roasted Scallions

The combination of the roasted scallions with roasted garlic makes this a great dish with sweet, salty, and savory flavors all at once. Makes great sandwiches for lunch, too.

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Three servings of fruit per day can reduce your risk of heart disease : Dr. Gourmet’s Health and Nutrition Bites

Adding just three servings of fruit to a high-salt diet – without reducing the amount of salt you consume – could help reduce your risk of heart disease.

Back in 2012 an Australian team noted that those who increased the amount of potassium in their higher-sodium diet still reduced their blood pressures, but not as much as a lower-sodium/high-potassium diet.

High blood pressure is one of many symptoms of heart disease, but there are some indicators that are not so easily measured. We also know that a high-sodium diet can have negative effects on the epithelial cells that line the blood vessels: damage that can predict heart disease even in those with no current symptoms of heart disease. Three servings of fruit »

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Iron Skillets; Non-Stick Pans; Nicoise : Ask Dr. Gourmet

Dear Dr. Gourmet,

Q: What temperatures should be used with non-stick skillets for cooking various foods? Are there any guidelines? I read somewhere that eggs should be cooked on med-low, is that correct?

A: Thanks very much for this question. I have had a debate about this with a chef friend who claimed that I should not have used a non-stick pan at high heat as I did in a recent television segment.

I have looked at a great deal of opinion on this and many manufacturers suggest temperatures between 350°F and 450°F. There is no clear consensus. I do use my pans occasionally in a hot oven (temperatures in the 500°F range). Temperatures for Non-stick Pans »

Q: I know that recipes say “Nicoise” but what does the term mean?

A: Nicoise is the French word for “in the style of Nice.” So, any dish that is labeled “Nicoise” would be in the cooking style of Nice, France. What is “Nicoise?” »

Q: How important is the brand when it comes to buying a cast iron skillet? I know Lodge is probably the best out there, but I figure that since cast iron isn’t exactly high tech stuff, its perfections shouldn’t be too hard to duplicate. Are the cheaper brands such as Texsport just as good or almost just as good when it comes to cast iron skillets?

A: I agree with you that the quality of a cast iron skillet is likely to be of little difference between brands. Certainly casting iron is a lower tech manufacturing process than a copper and stainless steel skillet, for instance. Lodge is a good brand and I try to recommend brands that will be widely available to my readers. There’s not much difference in the cost and I recall that my 10 inch Lodge cast iron skillet was about $15.00. Choosing and Curing an Iron Skillet »

Have a question? Send it to askdrgourmet@drgourmet.com and your question may be answered in this newsletter. Dr. Harlan regrets that due to time constraints, he can not answer all questions submitted. Your question may already have been answered in our Ask Dr. Gourmet archive.

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Chicken Salad with Roasted Scallions : Dr. Gourmet Newsletter

Today’s column is #14 in our “How to Eat Healthy” series. If you read one of these essays each week, follow the suggestions, and make small changes in your diet each week, by the end of 2015 you’ll understand both the how and the why of eating great food that’s great for you.

Dr. Tim Says….

Every time I hear someone say that carbs are bad for you I just want to scream. Go outside and start hollering as loud as I can. It’s just silly. Take this as gospel, carbohydrates are good for you!

Carbohydrates are chains of sugar molecules called saccharides. A single sugar molecule is known as a monosaccharide, while two sugars joined together are called a disaccharide. These are called simple sugars because they easily break down in the body into monosaccharides. The monosaccharide glucose is important because it’s the primary fuel for your body, and all usable carbohydrates contain glucose molecules. Combining the monosaccharides glucose and fructose results in the disaccharide called sucrose (good old fashioned table sugar).

Chains longer than two monosaccharides are called polysaccharides. These are considered complex carbohydrates (also called starches or complex sugars). Starches contain at least some glucose and these complex carbohydrates break down a little slower than simple carbs. Are carbohydrates good for you? »

Chicken Salad with Roasted Scallions

The combination of the roasted scallions with roasted garlic makes this a great dish with sweet, salty, and savory flavors all at once. Makes great sandwiches for lunch, too.

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Shrimp Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing : New Recipes @ DrGourmet.com

Shrimp Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing

This dressing is sweet, spicy, tangy, and a bit salty all at the same time. A great balance of flavors with a Southwestern vibe.

The Greek yogurt is not a must with this, but using it rather than plain yogurt will give you a much richer, creamier dressing.

Ratatouille Salad

I do like ratatouille but it seems like more of a cold weather comfort food. This chilled salad brings all the great flavors of ratatouille to spring or summer.

It is best made with fresh herbs but you can use dried. As always, the rule of thumb is to use 1/3 the amount of fresh herbs called for. For example, if the recipe calls for 1 tablespoon, use 1 teaspoon. There are exceptions, however. Tarragon can easily overwhelm a dish and make it bitter, so you should add just 1/8 teaspoon at a time, giving the herb long enough to permeate through the dish before you decide to add more.

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Juicers and Juicing; More : Ask Dr. Gourmet

Dear Dr. Gourmet,

Q: I am on Coumadin and was interested in buying a Juicer by Jack LaLanne. Friends of mine have been raving about it since their energy level has increased. What are your thoughts about this?

A: I am not a big fan of juicers. Juicing removes the best part of most of the fruits and vegetables during processing.

Every juicer is different, but most of the high end juicers don’t fully process what is forced through them. For instance, 100 grams of raw carrots has 2.8 grams of fiber, while the juice may have less than 1 gram. This holds true for fruits as well. The other issue with juicing is that there’s so much more to eating that 100 grams of carrots than drinking the same amount. Juicing »

Q: I am looking into getting a blender (not a juicer because I want to eat the fiber/nutrients in my fruits & vegetables). I have done some online research about Vitamix & Blendtec but they are very expensive. I was wondering if you have any recommendations. I should also say that I am on a budget as I am a school teacher and really don’t have a ton of money to spend on either of these.

A: You don’t need a fancy blender to juice. It is easier to juice with a more powerful blender, and you do risk burning out the motor if you use one that is not as powerful. Choosing a Blender »

Q: I’m a rare child who loved liver (beef) & onions. During my adult life I learned more about how our food is grown and distributed. I became a vegetarian more than 40 years ago.

It is my understanding that the liver accumulates all the toxins the animal (including human) ingests with feed (including other parts of animals – many diseased, antibiotics, etc.) and environmental pollution. I don’t understand why you would eat or recommend eating any animal’s liver today. Unless the meat animal were raised organically and fed their species’ real food, it should be on the inedible list. Regardless of whether the diner is vegetarian or not.

A: Livers do not accumulate toxins in the way that you think.

One of the main functions of the liver is to produce enzymes that are used in the body to break down chemicals. Those substances can be anything from medications to alcohol to the chemicals that are in many of the processed foods on the market today.

The liver does not work like an oil filter, capturing and holding all of those impurities. The enzymes break down the chemicals which are then eliminated from the body. Eating Liver »

Have a question? Send it to askdrgourmet@drgourmet.com and your question may be answered in this newsletter. Dr. Harlan regrets that due to time constraints, he can not answer all questions submitted. Your question may already have been answered in our Ask Dr. Gourmet archive.

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Ratatouille Salad : Dr. Gourmet Newsletter

Today’s column is #13 in our “How to Eat Healthy” series. If you read one of these essays each week, follow the suggestions, and make small changes in your diet each week, by the end of 2015 you’ll understand both the how and the why of eating great food that’s great for you.

Dr. Tim Says….

Are unsaturated fats good for you?

In a word: Yes.

It’s taken over two decades of controversy, but the research has clearly proven just how good fat is for you. As with everything you choose to eat, it is the quality of the fats that’s important. We’ve come to know that unsaturated fats, especially monounsaturated fats like Omega 3 fats, actually help prevent disease. Unsaturated fats »

Ratatouille Salad

I do like ratatouille but it seems like more of a cold weather comfort food. This chilled salad brings all the great flavors of ratatouille to spring or summer.

It is best made with fresh herbs but you can use dried. As always, the rule of thumb is to use 1/3 the amount of fresh herbs called for. For example, if the recipe calls for 1 tablespoon, use 1 teaspoon. There are exceptions, however. Tarragon can easily overwhelm a dish and make it bitter, so you should add just 1/8 teaspoon at a time, giving the herb long enough to permeate through the dish before you decide to add more.

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