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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Are we ready to cut salt? : Dr. Gourmet's Health and Nutrition Bites

If you’re reading this, you’re probably well aware that the average American eats far more salt than is good for them, with estimates of the average sodium intake ranging from 3,400 milligrams to over 10,000 milligrams per day. The vast majority of the salt in foods comes not from the individual diner adding it at the table, but rather it is added during cooking (or processing). With so many people subsisting on processed foods or restaurant meals, it’s natural for folks in public health to wonder if it’s time for the government to take action to limit the amount of salt in our food.

After the controversy surrounding New York’s limiting the sizes of beverages a consumer can purchase, it would also be reasonable to wonder if the American people are ready for government action. Researchers at the CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention had a novel thought: why not ask them?

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Lactase Enzyme; 'Food Starch;' Gaining Weight : Ask Dr. Gourmet

Dear Dr. Gourmet,

Q: I have a salad dressing recipe that calls for food starch, but I have no idea what that is. I tried making the recipe without it, but it was way too thin.

A: It is unusual that your recipe calls for food starch. This is a term usually used by food manufacturers to indicate a starch added to a food that is generally used as a thickening agent. The starch can be made from wheat, potato, rice, corn or tapioca. Food starch »

Q: My father-in-law is about 5ft. 10″, weighs 126 pounds, and cannot seem to gain weight but shows fasting blood glucose levels of 150 to 190 with 1.25mg of Micronase taken daily.

Most information on diabetic diets addresses the problem of being overweight and how to lose weight. He has the opposite problem. Could you direct us to information on how to address this problem and understand the possible mechanisms involved? His fasting blood glucose levels for the past several years were steadily at 129. Now that he’s being more aggressive in treatment, it seems his fasting blood glucose levels have increased.

A: We do see this problem fairly often. Many times as folks age they will lose weight, but there is also the factor that when a patient’s diabetes is not well controlled it can lead to weight loss as well.

This is a case where you and your father-in-law should speak with his physician about seeing a dietitian. Liberalizing his diet by adding in the right balance of carbs and protein for his case is best handled by those who are close to him. Weight gain in the elderly diabetic »

Q: Many of your recipes indicate, “Those who are lactose intolerant should avoid it.” I am lactose intolerant, however, I don’t avoid dairy but rather take a lactase enzyme supplement when consuming dairy. Often that mean taking the enzyme once or twice a day. Is it safe to use the enzyme so often? It works well for me.

A: We are very strict about labeling the recipes on the Dr. Gourmet web site regarding health issues. With lactose that means that if the recipe contains any lactose it is marked with the statement, “Those who are lactose intolerant should avoid it.” Because some people who are lactose intolerant can tolerate some cheeses, when a recipe contains cheese (as opposed to liquid milk or other dairy), we mark it “This recipe contains cheese and some of those who are lactose intolerant may be able to tolerate it.”

Interestingly, lactose intolerance is an issue of how much lactose is in a particular dish. Lactose is the main sugar found in milk and is made up of two sugar molecules bound together. Lactase enzyme supplements »

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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Roast Lemon Chicken with Potatoes : Dr. Gourmet Newsletter

Dr. Tim Says….

 I have written about how I like to use butter in recipes. It enhances the flavor and texture of recipes in a way that few other ingredients can. Most of the time you don’t need much, just a bit works wonders. A chef friend once commented that he believed it was easy for chefs to hide their sins by simply adding more fat and salt to a recipe. He would say, “You can make bad food taste better with more butter or salt, but it’s better to just make great food with the right amount of ingredients.” I believe that he’s right and that measuring is key to great food.

So when I cook, I measure. This is also one of the simplest tips for reducing calories and eating healthy. The importance of measuring »

Roast Lemon Chicken with Potatoes

This recipe tastes like Spain to me. There’s a bit of Italy or France, too, with versions of lemon chicken coming from almost every country around the Mediterranean. The best part is that it is super simple to make and the gravy is delicious sopped up with a bit of bread or roll.

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Chicken Curry and Chicken Tikka Masala : Dr. Gourmet Reviews

Sukhi’s Gourmet Indian

Chicken Curry and Chicken Tikka Masala: Serves Two

We’re inaugurating a new category of frozen meals today: the “Serves Two.”

I’m seeing more and more of these in the freezers: meals that are intended to actually serve two people, as opposed to meals that are disingenuously labeled as two servings when practically speaking they’re only one. CedarLane’s Spinach & Feta Pie is a good example: the numbers look great until you realize that not only is this two servings, but who’s going to cook it, then cut it in half and only eat half of it? Then reheat the leftovers? Never!

Today’s offerings from Sukhi’s Gourmet Indian are labeled “Serves 2″ right on the front of the package, and judging from the amount in the dish, they should be a good, light meal for two people. Two from Sukhi’s Gourmet Indian »

Did You Know?

We’ve reviewed over 675 convenience meals, ingredients, and even desserts! Check out our listings by main ingredient or brand name to find out if that meal that looks so good in the freezer case is really worth the money. Read more Dr. Gourmet’s Food Reviews »

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Spring Holiday Menu : New Recipes @ DrGourmet.com

Whether you’re celebrating Easter or the return of Spring (finally!), here’s a healthy holiday menu that everyone will love. Enjoy!

Roast Leg of Lamb

I love roast lamb and for me it’s the quintessential holiday meal. It’s so simple and you can use almost any variation for this recipe. Rosemary, sage, thyme or any combination of herbs works because the savory flavor of the lamb will hold up to almost any other ingredients.

Creamed Spinach
or Herbed Zucchini

Even when you don’t like spinach, creamed spinach is good. To me it’s great comfort food. The bitterness that you might not like about cooked spinach is balanced well with the creaminess of the cheese, and the nutmeg adds just the right touch of aromatic spice.

Porcini Mashed Potatoes

This is a rich, rich, rich side dish. It is a great example of how powerful flavors in a side dish can be the star of the plate. Combine the best quality extra virgin olive oil with the porcini mushrooms and then serve the potatoes with a simple pan roasted steak or fish filet.

Chocolate Cheesecake

This dessert has less calories and fat than a Kit Kat bar.

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Parents' portions, kids' portions: Dr. Gourmet's Health and Nutrition Bites

Back in 2012 I shared with you a study that showed that when preschoolers are presented with larger servings, they tend to eat more. On that occasion I pointed out that parents who were trying to get their children to eat more vegetables could make that work for them by serving larger portions of vegetables at mealtimes.

This can be a great strategy if you’re serving those vegetables alongside age-appropriate servings of main courses. On the other hand, a team of researchers sponsored by the US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service (USDA/ARS) and partially funded by both the National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and Kraft Foods, Inc. have found a way that strategy might backfire (Am J Clin Nutr 2014;99:763-70).

They noted that the types of research into children’s eating behaviors I mentioned above is performed in “tightly controlled laboratory studies.” Reasonably, they wondered how that might play out in the home – and given that most dinner meals with preschoolers include at least one adult, did what the adult serve themselves have any relationship with what was served to the child or how much of it they ate? Parents’ portions, kids’ portions »

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Alcohol in Vinegars; Asian Flavors; Pureeing Ideas : Ask Dr. Gourmet

Dear Dr. Gourmet,

Q: My guy has been sober for sixteen years and prefers that there is no alcohol in the foods that I make. I do use extracts but never heavily. I have avoided the wine/champagne vinegars, but I wonder about balsamic vinegar and the alcohol content. I would love to know what to use to make up for the lack of wine vinegar. Some recipes I feel I can interchange, but I really wonder about something like gazpacho, where the flavor is really needed.

A: There are traces of alcohol in vinegar but a very small amount. Wine vinegars such as red or white wine and balsamic vinegar do start with a dilute wine which is then fermented. Instead of the bacteria fermenting sugars, as happens when the wine is made, bacteria from the acetobacter family use the alcohol in the fermentation process. Most of the alcohol is used up, and much like the extracts you are using, there may be traces of ethanol remaining. Alcohol in vinegars »

Q: My daughter is allergic to all forms of sesame and peanuts. What can I use in stir fries to substitute for sesame oil yet maintain a nice Asian flavour?

A: This is a bit of a challenge and I don’t feel you will get all the flavor that comes with sesame oil with any alternative oil. Your best bet would be to use an oil with less flavor such as canola or grapeseed oil and find the Asian flavor in other ways. Asian flavors »

Q: I just had a hiatal hernia repair and am supposed to be on a liquid/pureed diet for at least a month. Nothing tastes good and short of getting retail baby food, do you have any recipes that are tasty and easily pureed? I am lactose intolerant with GERD and Barrett’s esophogus, healing well, but definitely need some protein as I have lost 11 pounds in only 7 days. Thanks so much!

A: There a number of options for you. Smoothies can be a good choice for breakfast. Here are two recipes and these have been designed to be GERD friendly:

Strawberry Banana Smoothie
Tropical Melon Smoothie

Cream soups are a good choice as well. More pureeing suggestions »

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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Thai Basil Chili Tofu and Bibimbop with Tofu : Saffron Road

Thai Basil Chili Tofu and
Bibimbop with Tofu

All in all we have had good experiences tasting Saffron Road products. There is a lot to like: they are certified halal, made with great ingredients, often gluten free, and many are vegan or vegetarian. Many of their recipes are more exotic, with dishes from all over the world. Their premade chicken stock is the best on the market.

There are a few new meals in the freezer case from Saffron Road and we started by tasting their Thai Basil Chili Tofu. This dish is full of great Thai flavor with Asian spice and even a taste of fresh basil (not bad for a frozen dish). New Meals from Saffron Road »

Did You Know?

We’ve reviewed over 675 convenience meals, ingredients, and even desserts! Check out our listings by main ingredient or brand name to find out if that meal that looks so good in the freezer case is really worth the money. Read more Dr. Gourmet’s Food Reviews »

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Red Beans and Rice Risotto : New Recipes @ DrGourmet.com

Red Beans and Rice Risotto

I love red beans and rice and I love risotto. The former is a rich blend of rice, veggies and beans spiced just right. The latter is a subtle, creamy dish that cooks fast. This is the perfect blend of the two so you don’t have to wait for Monday’s all-day simmering to get your red beans.

Note that this doesn’t contain added hot sauce. Take your bottle to the table with you and spice it up to your liking.

Sausage and Yellow Pepper Risotto

For those eating gluten free risotto can be a good choice when eating out. Chefs are more sensitive these days to diners who need to eat gluten free and I have had a few tell me that they have risotto in house even if it is not on the menu so it could be worth asking.

It can often be disappointing, however. Recently I was in a restaurant and ordered the risotto. It was done perfectly but there was far too much sausage – more meat than rice. This recipe is what I had hoped that dish to be. Great food is all about balance: the right amount of each ingredient so that each complements the other.

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Smart Phones and Childhood Obesity: Dr. Gourmet's Health and Nutrition Bites

Smart phones seem to be more and more common, even in school age children. And they don’t appear to be limited to those children whose families are in the higher income brackets: those who are minorities or are in lower income brackets are just as likely to have a smart phone as their peers. With childhood obesity a major concern, researchers are investigating ways to make use that ubiquitous technology to help treat or prevent obesity in children.

In a recent issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (2014;46(4):404-408), a team of researchers in Kansas City, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri reported on a pilot study they performed to see if a mobile application like those used on smart phones could help improve adolescents’ intake of fruits and vegetables, reduce their intake of sugar-sweetened beverages, and reduce their “screen time,” or time in front of a computer or television. Smart Phones »

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