Friday, March 29, 2013

Battle of the Blonds

Valrhona Chocolate is coming to Salt Lake City  to debut its latest innovation, a scrumptious line of "Blond" chocolate named "Dulcey." According to chocolatier Ruth Kendrick, who has made some confections with it, it has a caramel flavor.  
Caputo's is hosting an event to showcase this chocolate — Battle Blond. It features three local pastry chefs (Amber Billingsley of Vinto, Alexa Norlin of The Rose Establishment and Courtney McDowell of Pagy & Finca) going up against each other in a friendly chocolate competition. 
Top local chefs (Viet Pham, Ryan Lowder and Takashi Gibo) will be on hand to do the judging.
Lots of fun, lot of treats and lots of support for our local chefs, restaurants and food community. 
Monday, April 8th
7 PM
Tony Caputo's Market & Deli
$20 admission; $10 beverage pairing
Tickets purchased in advance via (801) 531-8669 or online @

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Ogden's First Restaurant Week April 12-21

Rovali's is one of the eateries participating in Ogden's Restaurant Week.

You know a city is putting itself on the culinary map when it hosts a Restaurant Week.  Ogden is doing in April 12-21, and the winners are the customers.  

More than a dozen locally owned restaurants will be offering a special deal: a fixed-price two-course lunch for $8 or a three-course dinner priced at $15.  Patrons should ask for the Restaurant Week menu. 

Participating restaurants include Sonora Grill, Tona Sushi Bar and Grill, Roosters Brewing Company, MacCool’s Public House, Union Grill, Bistro 258, Rovali’s Ristorante Italiano, Slackwater Pizzeria and Pub, The Garden Grill and Lounge, Restaurant 1107, Jasoh!, Prairie Schooner, and Santa Monica Pizza and Past. The organizing committee encourages the community to explore new restaurants or dine at a few favorites.
For additional information visit or visit

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Guac This Way - Guiltless Guacamole

Guiltless Guacamole, photo by Valerie Phillips
A few weeks ago I did a story for the Standard-Examiner called Haute Guac, featuring "guiltless guacamole" ideas.

Someone posted a comment on the story that said, "Anyone who puts peas into guacamole should be shot; but instead will probably be elected to the Senate."
Actually most people wouldn't realize they're eating peas in their guacamole, if you thoroughly puree the peas. It's just a slightly sweeter taste. Avocados have such a mild flavor that they can easily be switched up with other green veggies. Once you've added cilantro, onions, tomatoes, garlic, chiles, and a squirt of lime, it's surprisingly hard to tell the difference. 
Guacamole's main ingredient — avocados — contain a lot of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, as well as potassium, fiber, B vitamins, and vitamins E and K.  But they're also high in calories.  A medium-size avocado is 322 calories, and about 70 percent fat. 
One solution is to add some other good-for-you ingredients. You still get some of the heart-healthy benefits of avocados but without as many calories.
Green peas are the secret ingredient in a Guiltless Guacamole recipe from "Desperation Entertaining" by Alicia Ross and Beverly Mills (Workman Publishing, 2002). The peas, which are virtually fat-free, cut half the fat from the usual guacamole recipe. A cup of cooked peas also offers nine grams of fiber, 38 percent of the daily allowance of vitamin C and 26 percent of vitamin A.
Zucchini is another good mix-in for a hybrid guacamole.  After all, people have been sneaking zucchini in everything from brownies to casseroles for years.  Zucchini is low in calories (19 per cup, raw) with no fat. It's also a significant source of vitamin C and a good source of magnesium and thiamin. In this Zukamole recipe, the zucchini and garlic are roasted for a nicer flavor and texture. 
Guacamame is a brighter green due to the edamame in it. 
With Guacamame, part of the avocados are switched out for edamame. They can be bought frozen and shelled in many supermarket frozen food sections. The soybeans give the guacamole a bright green color, although the avocado in it will eventually darken. 
When pureed together in a processor, this dip is thick and a little coarse. Sturdy veggies sticks could stand up to it. But if you want to serve it with baked tortilla chips, which are usually brittle, thin it with a little yogurt or water. Otherwise you'll have chips breaking off in the dip.
Edamame will boost the protein content, as a cup of it contains 17 grams of protein,  20 percent for iron, 16 percent for vitamin C, and 10 percent for calcium. 
Broccomole is another hybrid option. Because broccoli has a stronger flavor, it requires a bigger ratio of avocado in order to keep it from overpowering the dip. Surprisingly, the results weren't too far off from the traditional guacamole flavor. A cup of chopped cooked broccoli has about 54 calories, less than a gram of fat, and 160 percent of the daily value for vitamin C.
Keep in mind that you can customize these recipes with more salsa, hot sauce, extra chiles or spices to suit your taste. 
2 medium-size zucchini
1/2 head of garlic
1/4 cup water
2 medium avocados
1/4 cup cilantro sprigs
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 cup salsa
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375.
Slice zucchini in half, lengthwise.  Place the half-head of garlic in a roasting pan with the zucchini. Brush them with olive oil.
Roast about 1 hour, or until vegetables are tender. Let vegetables cool slightly. Cut off the root end of the garlic head. Squeeze the garlic pulp from the skins into a food processor bowl (or a deep, narrow bowl if using an immersion blender). Chop the zucchini into chunks and add to the bowl with the water, cilantro,  and lime juice, and process until well-mixed. Peel and seed the avocados and add to the bowl, along with the cilantro and cumin.  Process until smooth.
Pour into a serving bowl and mix in the salsa.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with tortilla chips, crackers or raw veggies. Makes about 3 to 4 cups.
Options: Add 1 4-ounce can chopped mild green chiles, or hotter fresh chiles, if desired.
— Valerie Phillips
1 1/2 cups frozen green peas, thawed
3 cloves garlic
1/2 medium-size red onion (or about 1/2 cup chopped)
1/2 cup densely packed fresh cilantro
1 very ripe, medium avocado
1/2 cup spicy prepared salsa
Juice of 1 lime
Set peas in a colander to drain. Peel the garlic. Peel onion and cut into 4 pieces. Rinse cilantro and shake the leaves to remove excess water. Remove and discard tough lower stems. Peel and seed the avocado. Process all ingredients in a food processor (or blender) until very smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Option: Add chopped chiles or hot sauce if more heat is desired.
— Adapted from "Desperation Entertaining" by Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross (Workman, 2002)
1 medium-size avocado, peeled and seeded
1 cup cooked edamame (shelled fresh soybeans)
1 4-ounce can chopped mild green chiles
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup cilantro
1/2 cup prepared salsa (or more to taste)
Process the avocado, edamame, chiles, garlic powder, lime juice and cilantro in a food processor for about 30 seconds, until almost smooth. (If you try processing this in with a stand blender or immersion blender, add about 1/4 cup water.)
Pour into a serving bowl and mix in the salsa. Serve with crunchy vegetables or baked chips.
Makes about 2 1/2 cups.
Option: Add chopped jalapenos or hot sauce if more heat is desired.
— Valerie Phillips
1 1/2 cups chopped frozen broccoli
1/4 cup cilantro sprigs
2 medium ripe avocados
1 4-ounce can chopped mild green chiles
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 cup prepared salsa
Place the frozen broccoli in a microwave-safe bowl. Add a few tablespoons of water and cover. Cook for 4-5 minutes on high, or until broccoli is tender.
Pour the broccoli in a food processor or stand blender. Add the cilantro and process until pureed. Peel and seed the avocados and add to the food processor along with the chiles, garlic powder, and lime juice. Process until ingredients are well-mixed.
Pour into a serving bowl and add salsa. Add salt and pepper to taste. Makes 3 to 4 cups.
Option: Add hot sauce or jalapenos if more heat is desired.
— Valerie Phillips

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Lovin' Laughlin, Part 1

Ever been to Laughlin, Nevada? Well, neither had I. 

Laughlin is located in the very southern tip of Nevada. Arizona is just across the Colorado River, and it's probably within shouting distance of California, too.

 It's not the first place on the map that I would have thought to visit.  But it was part of a fun Southern Utah/Las Vegas/Laughlin road trip for my daughter, Amy, and me.

Thompson Pecan Farm, Hurricane, Utah
Our first day, I picked Amy up at her apartment in Provo and we kept driving until we got to Hurricane, about a half hour from St. George, at 2 p.m.  For awhile now, I've wanted to do a story on Thompson's Pecan Farm, as it's one of just three Utah pecan farms, and the only one that sells its nuts locally.

After the interview, we had lunch/dinner at Texas Roadhouse, one of Amy's favorites.  Then we drove around Dixie State College, now Dixie State University. Amy and I both attended there, and the campus has changed a lot since I graduated in 1975!  We stopped at Amy's favorite spot — Maverik — so she could get her Dr. Pepper fix.

We also stopped at the Lock Your Love Gate.  In a sentimental tradition, sweethearts buy metal locks, etch their initials or a message on them, and lock it on a gate in front of a house.

When I heard about it, I thought "lock" included a lock of someone's hair. But no. Just metal locks, that you can buy at nearby shops.  I guess it's a good little money-maker for the lock shops. 

We left  St. George while it was still daylight, as I didn't want to drive the canyon in the dark. By the time we got to the Golden Nugget, the sun had set and the bright lights of Las Vegas were beckoning.  We relaxed in the third floor swimming pool, reserved for those over 21. No splashing kids!  We thought about going shopping on Fremont Street, but the crowds and general craziness changed our minds. 

The next morning we swam  in The Tank, a pool that has a large tank with sharks in it.  We went down the waterslide that shoots you through a glass tube in the tank, so you supposedly can feel like you're right there with the sharks. Both times, I was going so fast that I didn't see anything but dark blurs as I passed the sharks.  Jaws? I would have never seen him comin.'  It was really cool watching the scuba divers cleaning the tank as the sharks swam around them. Hazardous duty?

Our $67 room special included a buy-one-get-one-free buffet breakfast, so that's where we went for a hearty econo-meal to start our day.  Bacon, sausages, chicken fried steak, cereal, all kinds of fruit and pastries, and even a salad bar awaited us. Iceberg lettuce is now the breakfast of champions!

We drove to The Strip, as Amy wanted to stop at the Coca Cola Store and the M & M Store.  Being a busy Friday afternoon, we sat in a lot of traffic and waded through a lot of crowds to get there. I was hoping to find a replacement for the vintage Tab glass that my Deseret News co-worker, Dennis Lythgoe had given me.  It was a running joke when I was a die-hard 2-can-per-day Tab drinker. The glass got chipped a while ago.  Although I gave Tab up for the caffeine-free Diet A&W, I still wanted to find a replacement one for old times' sake.  But, it was not to be. In all the bazillion items of Coke memorabilia -- salt and pepper shakers, plates, earrings, you name it — I couldn't find any products honoring Coke's hot-pink stepsister, Tab.  But I was able to buy a Tab at the fountain drink area, where you can sample a huge variety of different soft drinks from around the world, and different flavor shots in Coke products.  I got a shot of raspberry in my Tab, which made it taste a lot like cough syrup and reminded me why I gave up drinking Tab. Amy was less-than-impressed with the flavor shot that made her Mr. Pibb overly sweet.  Better luck next time!

We went next door to the M&M store with its giant wall of candy. Interesting how there were were hundreds of people mobbed together, waiting in line to buy the same candy that they could buy for a lot less in their hometown supermarket. These M&Ms came in specific flavors and colors, but still... 

It was on to Laughlin.  The 50-60 miles between Henderson and Laughlin are a lonely stretch of country.  I don't think I'd like to get car trouble out there. There are some canyon curves just before you get  there, and then you see it — a row of casino/hotels and palm trees along the Colorado River.  
A statue of Don Laughlin greets drivers turning onto Casino Drive.  Back in the 1960s he flew over the area, which was mainly a boating and fishing spot with an 8-room motel. Laughlin saw the possibilities, and bought the motel. His family lived in four of the rooms and he rented out the other four. Today, in his 80s, he lives in one of the penthouses at the top of his Riverside hotel and casino, with a roof helicopter pad so he can take a spin whenever he wants. 

View from our hotel room at the Aquarius.
They say "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas," but not so in Laughlin, according to Meg McDaniel of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. "What happens in Laughlin, everybody knows about it, because this is a small town."

We stayed at the Aquarius.  Yes, when you first walk in, the cigarette smoke of the casino fills your nostrils. But the hotel room seemed a world apart, with the floor-to-ceiling window offering a nice view of the  Colorado River.

We had dinner  the Aquarius' Italian-themed restaurant, Vineyard Ristorante, where I had moist,  tender halibut crusted with panko and crab ($27). I think it was the best-prepared halibut I can remember.

Tim Abrams, food & beverage director at the Aquarius.
 I loved the crispy fried kale, broccolini and patty pan squash that came with the dish.   When I talked to Tim Abrams, the Aquarius' food and beverage director, he said he has a good relationship with their suppliers who bring their seafood in from Alaska, because they go through so much of it in their restaurants.  On a weekend, the Windows on the River buffet will use over 800 pounds of snow crab legs and an awful lot of shrimp.  They order it six months in advance to get a good price.
He also told me how Laughlin has two changing demographics that influence their menus.  In the winter, the senior "snowbirds" come in their RVs and fifth wheels and stay in the trailer parks. They like comfort food such as pot roast, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, or pork chops.
In the summer, the boaters come to enjoy the river and Lake Mohave. Abrams said they are usually younger and have more adventurous palates.

Amy had chicken Parmesan ($19), and was impressed with the juicy chicken breast and the flavorful marinara sauce and melted mozzarella.

Really, we shouldn't have ordered dessert, but the server brought out a cart that displayed all of them, and they looked so tempting!  Amy had a flavorful apple pie  and I had a rich, creamy Oreo cheesecake. I took photos, but they don't do these desserts justice, so I chose not to post them.

Feeling a little motivated due to that indulgence, I hit the gym soon after dinner for a little biking and weight training. Ironically, you have to walk past the hotel's McDonald's to find it.   It's a well-equipped facility with treadmills, bikes, weights, mats, exercise balls, etc.   On a Friday night, I don't think the hottest ticket in a casino town is the gym. Fine with me to have it all to myself!

Lovin' Laughlin, Nevada Part 2

Kitchens at Windows on the River buffet.
Here's Part Two of the road trip Amy & I took through Southern Utah, Las Vegas and Laughlin, Nevada.
The next morning we had dinner at the Windows on the River Buffet. We got there at 8:30, ahead of the long line of people who seemed to show up right at 9 a.m.
True to his word, the Aquarius hotel's food & beverage director Tim Abrams found Amy and me in the dining room and gave us a tour of the kitchens. I was impressed with the cleanliness and attention to food safety, because frankly, I have some bad memories of losing my appetite after peeking into some restaurant kitchens.  This one looked pretty good.

Overlooking the golf course at Laughlin Ranch.
We had booked massages at the Laughlin Ranch, a planned-community development with a golf course and spa.  It was originally planned to be much larger, but the economy bust in 2008 nixed those plans, according to Meg McDaniel of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Amy and I were ushered into a luxurious changing room, where we changed into comfy robes and then went into the plush, peaceful waiting room for our massages. Mine was 50 minutes of absolute bliss, with all the kinks and knots in my neck getting worked out. The masseuse applied a menthol/camphor based Bio-Freeze to my knee injury, which helped loosen it up a little so that I could enjoy the rest of my day without pain. Relief!

Colorado Belle hotel and casino in Laughlin, Nevada.
We had lunch at Pints, a brewpub at the Colorado Bell Casino Resort. Since we're not beer drinkers, we weren't too interested in the brewing process. But we WERE interested in the restaurant's signature build-a-burger. You can choose from a long list of custom ingredients, marking off your order on a form that you hand to the wait staff.  It reminded me of The Counter burger chain (the one at the Gateway in Salt Lake City closed a few years ago). You pick the type of meat (bison, turkey, beef, salmon), the rubs, sauces, toppings, cheeses, and so on.  I had a bison burger with blue cheese, sauteed mushrooms and caramelized onions. I rarely order burgers when I go out to eat, because so often, a burger is just....a burger.  But this one was really flavorful and juicy (for being bison especially) and since it had my favorite toppings, I loved every bite!

Celebration Cruise in Laughlin.
We rolled out of the restaurant with just a few minutes to catch the Celebration Cruise. The Celebration is a small riverboat that takes you up and down the stretch of casinos along the Colorado River. The captain offers a bit of colorful history as well. For instance, he told us when the folks from Circus Circus bought property to build the Edgewater Casino along the river, their plans were held up by a Mrs. Lafferty who wouldn't sell her parcel of land along the river.
After much wrangling, and price-raising, she finally settled for $2.5 million and a suite of rooms in their hotel so that she could still live near the water's edge.  As the hotel was in the final stages, the elderly Mrs. Lafferty passed away.  Maybe she should have settled sooner for a little less money, she might have had some time to enjoy it. Just sayin.'

Electric Cowboy from Fremont Street

We also saw the electric cowboy, River Rick, a clone of Vegas Vic that was on Fremont Street since the 1950s.  That was something I remembered from my childhood when we'd go to Las Vegas with my Grandpa and Grandma Koyen, who lived  in Tempiute, Nevada.  That big giant, waving cowboy was a fixture that welcomed folks to the "old" Las Vegas before the mega-"resorts"took over on The Strip.  And I think he has another twin brother in Wendover.

Celebration Cruise on Colorado River, Laughlin.
Here's what we discovered about the cruise: you should board early so that in case it's to capacity, you can still snag a seat on the top deck. It's covered so you don't get sunburned, but you have the a nice breeze from the river and you can see much better than the indoor deck below.

We had about an hour to go out to the pool and catch some rays. I did a bit of swimming to work out my knee a little. Then we went to The Cove Lounge, and enjoyed small plates of skewered beef, bruschetta and pizza before catching a river taxi to the Reba McIntyre concert.

Water taxi on the Colorado River in Laughlin, Nevada.
When I compare Laughlin to Las Vegas, the big advantage that Laughlin has is the river. First of all, it offers some "realness" when everything in Las Vegas seems man-made — a fake castle, fake pyramid, etc.

But also, the free river taxis make it convenient to get from one place to another, and alleviate traffic congestion. It was soooo easy getting to a sold-out concert, compared with having to drive through gridlocked traffic and having to find parking at so many other concert venues where I've been.

Reba McIntyre concert, with River Rick peering over the top of the stage.

Reba McIntyre put on a great concert. She shared the back-story behind each song, so you felt familiar with them while she was singing. We didn't realize that her stepson, Brandon Blackstock, is engaged to Kelly Clarkson, until Reba told us so. Amy was happy that she sang the theme song of her old TV sitcom, as Amy and Kim used to watch it regularly.
I thought it was kinda cool that you could see the lit-up River Rick sign in the distance, and it seemed that he was peering over the top of the stage.

About halfway through the concert, we moved down to the standing area to watch the rest of the concert.. Our seats had grown a bit uncomfortable (especially because the people in front of us sat in stadium chairs that took up all our leg room).
We decided to take the riverwalk back to the Aquarius, as it was warm and breezy and we figured the river taxis would be full.

Enjoying the riverwalk in Laughlin, Nevada.
Then, we walked over to the movie theater across the street at the outlet mall. It was around 10 p.m., just the perfect time for a chick flick, "Safe Haven." Surprisingly, we were the only two people in the movie!  So we were able to giggle and comment all the way through.  I was kind of surprised — 10 p.m. on a Saturday and the whole theater was like a ghost town. I suppose the seniors would be home and going to bed by then, and most Laughlin visitors probably came for the concert and casinos, not movies. As in most Nicholas Sparks movies, the plot was pretty predictable, until the little surprise twist at the end. I won't be spoiling anything by saying someone dies in the movie...someone ALWAYS dies in a Nicholas Sparks movie.

Seafood on the Golden Nugget's brunch buffet in Laughlin.
The next morning we had breakfast/brunch at the Golden Nugget in Laughlin.  Crab, oysters and shrimp are the breakfast of champions!

Pool and tennis courts at the Aquarius, Laughlin, Nev.
Then we went back to our hotel and out to the pool. The sun was hot and bright, and it was refreshing to swim and splash.  For awhile, I had the whole pool to myself and enjoyed swimming laps.  Someone was actually playing tennis on the courts next to the pool. I suspect those courts don't get a lot of use.  Just as few people use the hotel gym,  most people don't come to Laughlin to play tennis. But, given that the courts are in pristine condition, maybe they should.

As we checked out of the hotel, the valet brought our car (did I mention they have free valet parking?). Then we mosied on over to the outlet mall across the street. There were some great bargains at the Dress Barn and the Bath & Bodyworks outlet.  We could have stayed longer, but time was a wastin' and we had a long drive ahead of us.

Our stay wasn't complete without a drive across the river to Bullhead City, where Amy's eagle eyes had spotted a Maverik earlier. We filled up with drinks, gasoline and goodies and hit the road, fortified with Subway sandwiches and a CD of LDS General Conference to listen to.

We pulled in to Provo about 11:30 p.m., not bad for a 500-mile drive.

Although it's off the beaten path for most Utahans, Laughlin brings in Nevada's third-largest gaming revenue, behind Las Vegas and Reno.  The inexpensive rooms, the great food and amenities are obviously subsidized by folks who spend their time at the slot machines and blackjack tables.  But,  Amy and I had a great time without spending a nickel in the casino.

If you like the excitement, the crowds and craziness of Las Vegas, then Laughlin might not be your destination choice. But I tend to like trips that more laid-back and relaxing.

"It's how Vegas used to be," is one of the town's slogans, and it's an apt one. 

James Beard Celebrity Tour in Park City

 The James Beard Celebrity Chef Tour is coming tomorrow to Riverhorse On Main, 540 Main Street in Park City. 

 Chef Seth Adams, along with two guest celebrity chefs, is hosting an exciting evening of food, wine and camaraderie 

Adams has made     Adams is known for upscale, modern American cuisine and uncomplicated, seasonal dishes. Joining him in the kitchen will be guest celebrity chefs Scott Shields of Blue Moon Beach Grill in Nags Head, N.C., Caroline Fey of The City Kitchen in San Francisco, Calif., and Jodie Rogers from Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah.
The Celebrity Chef Tour began in 2004 as a way to bring the unique experience of dining at New York City's historic James Beard House to cities around the country. At each Celebrity Chef Tour dinner, top chefs come together to create a fantastic multiple-course dinner, each paired with premium wines and/or authentic Belgian beers.
Guests have the  opportunity to interact with the participating chefs while enjoying the  atmosphere of one of the nation's finest restaurants. The Celebrity Chef Tour travels to cities around the country bringing once-in-a-lifetime dinners to venues in Hawaii, Seattle, New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, San Diego, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and more.
The dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. Cost is $195 with proceeds benefiting the James Beard Foundation. For tickets, visit, call The Riverhorse at 435-649-3536 or email

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Eating Healthy At McDonald's

Dr. Cindy Goody, McDonald's corporate nutritionist.
If you don't eat healthy at McDonald's, it's your own fault.
That's the impression I got while covering a talk given by Cindy Goody to the Utah Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at Weber State on Thursday. Goody is the senior director of nutrition with McDonald's corporation. 
After her presentation, she invited dietitians to tour the McDonald's at 5745 South Harrison Blvd. and taste the corporation's new Premium McWrap.

With 14,000 restaurants in the United States, serving 25 million guests per day, McDonald's has a big impact on America's eating habits. Goody said that during 2007-2010 adults consumed on average, 11.3 percent of their total daily calories from fast food.
She said today's quick-serve restaurants are doing a better job of offering more fruits, vegetables and wholesome choices, sharing nutrition and ingredient information on websites and menu boards, offering more customization (such as "Hold the mayo"), and working with dietitians. Goody said at McDonald's, the team of dietitians has grown from two to eight.
Although the company is known for its hefty Big Macs and Quarter-Pounders, Goody pointed out, "We offer a burger that we've been offering since the 1950s that is only 250 calories."
And that also addresses the complaint that you have to spend a lot of money to eat the low-cal items, because the regular burger costs a lot less than a Big Mac or an Angus burger. (But Goody did add  that salads and fruit items  tend to cost more because the fresh ingredients are more perishable.)
Over the years, the company has added salads, grilled chicken, fruit and yogurt parfaits, and oatmeal to its menu. The oil used in frying is zero-grams of trans-fat oil, a blend of canola, soybean and corn oil.
But now let me digress. Here's what I've noticed. I'll come in to a fast food place thinking I COULD order the grilled chicken salad. But once I'm through those doors, my senses are assaulted with the aroma of french fries, sizzling beef patties and crispy chicken. So it's harder to stick to the original plan without at least ordering a side of fries. 
That's why I wondered how well these "healthy" items actually sell compared to the McDonald's core menu of burgers and fries. Goody told me sales figures are proprietary information. "But if something is not selling, it comes off the menu. You may notice that the Chicken Selects (chicken breast strips) and well as our snack-size fruit and walnut salads are coming off."

Happy Meals have been healthified; they now automatically include a serving of sliced apples. Goody said milk has been offered as an option for over 20 years, but "when we changed from a paper carton to a plastic jug that was more compatible to kids' hands, we saw a big uptick. We also transitioned from low-fat chocolate milk to fat-free chocolate milk."

Sodium has been reduced in the chicken filet, buns, smoothies and yogurt.  The sodium was reduced in chicken McNuggets by 20 percent, but it was done incrementally, and "customers haven't noticed anything," she said.
She added that the 750-calorie Angus Third Pounder burger patty will be taken off the menu.
This past month McDonald's unveiled a Premium McWrap. But beware the healthy halo: Yes, you CAN order the healthy grilled chicken version flavored with sweet chili for about 360 calories. But if you go for the crispy chicken with bacon and cheddar jack cheese, it can run you 600 calories. But you are at least getting a few fresh veggies such as spring greens, cucumbers, and tomato.
(FREEBIE ALERT:  From April 9-13, participating McDonald's in Utah will offer a McWrap for just $1 with the purchase of a drink.)
Next month, the company is rolling out an Egg White Delight McMuffin, served on a whole grain English muffin, with Canadian bacon and white cheddar cheese. It clocks in at 250 calories, compared with a regular McMuffin's 300 calories.
Goody said listing calorie counts on the menu boards hasn't made a difference in sales. "But we've gotten comments from customers that they are pleasantly surprised at how many calories different items are."

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Guacamole Cook-Off! 4 Top Chefs, 500 Avocados

Viking Cooking School is hosting a "Guac-Off" this Friday.  Here's the poster of info:

Viking Cooking School
DATE: Friday, March 22, 2013
TIME: 7:00-9:00 PM
LOCATION: Viking Cooking School
2233 South 300 East, SLC, UT 
MORE: Auction proceeds benefit Whole Planet Foundation

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Utahn Needs Votes for the Pillsbury Bake-Off

Awhile back I wrote that the Pillsbury Bake-Off was accepting entries, and that it had a new format that includes online voting.

 I found this comment posted to my column in the Standard-Examiner from Kirsten LaKose:

Hi Valerie,
I came across this article and I just had to share some great news - I've been chosen as a semi-finalist in the 2013 Pillsbury Bake-Off! My recipe, Corn and Chile Biscuit Bake, is now part of the online voting round and needs lots of votes to make it into the finals!
I live in Orem and I'm the only Utah resident in the Amazing Doable Dinners category that is competing right now. If anyone wants to help my recipe make it to the finals, you can vote now through March 28 at Thanks!

So anyone who wants to help Kirsten LaKose of Orem get to the Pillsbury Bake-off finals, be sure to cast your vote! 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Utah Food & Candy Expo on April 9

The local chapters of the American Association of Candy Technologist (AACT) and the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) are hosting their annual Utah Food and Candy Expo on Tuesday, April 9 at the South Towne Expo Center. 

There will be seminars from 1-4 pm, covering such topics as:
- Flavor management, corn syrups and alternatives
- GMO in confectionary
- Water activity and shelf life
- Anti-oxidants and tableting

  Vendor booths will be open from 4-7 pm. 
  The expo provides a great opportunity for those  in the food and candy industry to meet with ingredient and packaging vendors, as well as take classes from industry leaders. 
  Students in Food Science and Culinary Arts, as well as professionals are invited to participate, along with anyone involved with food manufacturing from one-person operations to large companies.
  There is no charge for the expo. Pre-registration is requested at
  If you are a food broker and interested in participating, contact Dave Preszler at 801-451-7013.
  “Utah’s Best” display — Any food or candy company with production in the Rocky Mountain region are invited to come and display their products at no charge. Tasting samples of product are encouraged. 
   Contact Rex Infanger at before April 6 to display your products.