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Do we really need all these 'low-fat' and 'low-carb' choices?

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

The other day while I was at the supermarket, I was looking for my favorite soda, Pepsi, which was on sale if I bought five 12-packs of cans. But as I checked out the choices, I encountered vanilla Pepsi, diet-vanilla Pepsi, cherry Pepsi, diet-cherry Pepsi, lemon Pepsi, caffeine-free Pepsi, Pepsi Max, diet-Pepsi Max, diet Pepsi and regular Pepsi.

Not to be outdone, I found regular milk, 2 percent milk, 1 percent milk and skim milk. Milk is 4 percent fat, so the 2 percent milk has had half of its fat removed; thus, 2 percent milk is not 98 percent fat free; it’s more like 50 percent fat free. Do we really need the 1 percent milk? Only skim milk is virtually fat free. And then we have organic milk, soymilk and various flavored milks!

What about cottage cheese? Which one do I choose? There was low-fat, no-fat, whipped, non-whipped, with fruit, without fruiteewhat do I choose?

It seems like every product out there has some sort of a “lite” version. Now it seems like everyone has “low-carb” versions of their products to appease the growing number of individuals during this latest dietary trend. Can you believe “low-fat” Twinkies?

Now you can understand the trend in recent years of increasingly larger supermarkets and the birth of the mega-mart. They need the extra space for all the varieties of these products.

In the end, the consumer supposedly benefits from this process. I had every option under the sun when choosing my Pepsi. I chose the one with no calories, no caffeine, no sugar and no added flavor, otherwise known as water. Then I had the choice of spring, mineral, naturally sparkling, purified or glacial.

Spicy Grilled Tilapia with Creamy Grits and Mushroom Scallion Sauce

Mushroom Scallion Sauce:

1 Tbsp. butter

2 cups sliced baby portobello mushrooms

1/2 cup sliced scallions

1/4 cup white wine

1/2 pint heavy cream

1 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

Salt and black pepper to taste

Melt butter in a large saute pan. Saute mushrooms and scallions about 3 minutes. Stir in wine and heavy cream; season with garlic powder, cayenne, salt and pepper. Stir until sauce thickens slightly. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Grits:

5 cups milk

1 cup quick-cooking grits

2 Tbsps. butter

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

Bring milk to a boil. Gradually whisk in grits, butter, salt and pepper. Stir constantly for about 3 to 5 minutes until grits thicken to desired consistency. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Grilled Broccoli and Carrots:

1 large bunch broccoli, sliced lengthwise (stalks and florets intact)

1 bunch whole carrots, tops removed, sliced lengthwise

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp. garlic powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat grill to medium. Toss broccoli and carrots in olive oil and season with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Grill vegetables for about 6 minutes or until tender, turning them once halfway through. If room allows, grill tilapia at same time.

Tilapia:

6 (6-oz. tilapia fillets

1/3 cup Jamaican jerk seasoning marinade

Heat grill to medium. Rinse and dry fillets and then rub with jerk seasoning. Grill tilapia for 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Remove from heat.

To plate:

Spoon grits on center of plate. Lay tilapia on top of grits. Lay the carrot slices on top of fish in a criss-cross manner and place broccoli stalk on the side of fish. Top with mushroom scallion sauce and serve immediately.

Thai-Inspired Stuffed Chicken Breast and Slaw

1 cup jasmine rice, cooked

1/2 shredded coconut

2 green onions, finely sliced

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

2 Tbsps. Thai chili sauce

2 limes, juiced and zested, divided

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. ground white pepper

1 (14-oz.) can coconut milk

1 cup chopped roasted peanuts

3/4 cup panko crumbs

1/2 cup sesame seeds, toasted

In a large bowl, mix the rice, coconut, green onion, basil, cilantro, chili sauce, one tablespoon limejuice and zest from one lime. Place chicken between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound to even thickness. Place equal amounts of rice mixture on each breast half. Wrap chicken around filling, securing with toothpicks. In a glass pie plate, mix together flour, zest of one lime, salt and pepper. In another plate, mix coconut milk and 2 tablespoons limejuice. In a third plate, mix together peanuts, panko and sesame seeds.

Roll chicken breasts, one at a time, first in flour mixture, then in coconut milk mixture and finally in peanut mixture, coating well. In a shallow baking pan, arrange chicken, seam side down, and place in a 350-degree oven. Bake 30 minutes or until juices run clear.

Thai-style slaw

3/4 cup chunky peanut butter

1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar

1 lime, juiced

1 Thai chili, finely minced

1/2 cup fresh cilantro

1/2 cup freshly chopped basil

1 Napa cabbage, finely sliced

1 English cucumber, coarsely grated

1 carrot, grated

1/2 red onion, finely diced

In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients and refrigerate.

To plate:

Place slaw on a serving platter, remove toothpicks from chicken and add chicken to plate. Garnish with cucumber, lime and cilantro.

Norm Harding is a cooking columnist for the Beacon. To send him recipes, e-mail him at nharding@brunswickbeacon.com.