Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Rachel Beller on The Today Show

Our resident nutritionist, Rachel Beller, was recently featured on NBC's Today Show! Check out this clip for some tips on simple ways to lose weight, and remember, we are always accepting your nutrition questions for Rachel to answer. Just email them to pennappetit.nutritionQandA@gmail.com and you'll see them answered on the blog!

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Like what you see? Visit Rachel's website at www.bellernutritionalinstitute.com for more.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Ask-A-Nutritionist (Andy)

Q: Pomegranate versus Blueberries which gives the biggest antioxidant bang-for-the-buck? - Andy

A: Hi Andy,

Blueberries and pomegranates have become one of today’s most popular fruits, and it is no wonder. Both of these fruits are packed with antioxidants. Antioxidants can help prevent free radical damage that can damage DNA and increase the risk for heart disease and cancer. Antioxidants are also believed to lower levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein)- the “bad” cholesterol, which can contribute to cardiovascular disease.

Blueberries are particularly high in anthocyanins, a potent antioxidant. They were ranked the highest compared to 40 other fruits in terms of antioxidant power, according to a study done at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Center on Aging at Tufts university. Blueberries are also a good source of vitamin C and fiber.

Pomegranates are an excellent source of polyphenols, another type of antioxidant. In fact, pomegranate juice has more antioxidants than most other fruit juices, red wine, or green tea. Pomegranates have ellagic acid as well. Ellagic acid may play a role in cancer cell death and may prevent certain carcinogens from binding to your cells. But of course, as with all fruit juices, limit your intake. Those sugary calories can add up much more quickly than you might notice.

And now for the ultimate question: which gives the most bang for your buck? Let’s focus on antioxidant value. The oxygen radical absorbance capacity, or ORAC, is a measure of the amount of antioxidants in a particular food. According to the USDA, Pomegranate juice has an ORAC of 2,341 units per 100 grams. Blueberries have an ORAC value of 6,552 units per 100 grams. Blueberry juice has an ORAC value of 2906 units per 100 grams. Based on these numbers alone, blueberries may seem like the clear winner. Pomegranates also have limitations because they are seasonal. Blueberries, on the other hand, can be found fresh or in the frozen aisle at your local supermarket. Both are great options for getting a healthy dose of antioxidants.

This does not mean that you should ignore pomegranates completely. Pomegranates can add more dimension to your diet while supplying higher levels of different antioxidants that blueberries may not have very much of. If you cannot get a hold of fresh pomegranates, beat the heat with a refreshing antioxidant drink made with three ounces of pomegranate juice and ½ cup sparkling water.

Rachel S. Beller, MS, RD
Beller Nutritional Institute, LLC

Want to see your nutritional question answered here? Simply submit your questions to pennappetit [dot] nutritionQandA [at] gmail [dot] com.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Disgruntlement with FroGro, in Haiku Form

What the eff, FroGro?
You just sell small muffin tins,
And just standard cups.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

More Than a Loaf

Everybody eats it, most people love it, but few ever realize that they’re participating in a custom as old as the human race. It’s all about bread- people have been harvesting and eating wheat since the Stone Age, although back then the wheat was chewed instead of ground into a meal. It wasn’t until the Egyptians starting crushing the wheat into a paste and heating it over a fire that bread was first developed. This created a flat, hard bread. Archaeologists have discovered remnants of this bread from 5,000 years ago in Egyptian tombs. At about 1000 B.C. yeast cultures began to be directly added to the dough and bread as we know it was formed.

As the humans moved up and out of Africa and migrated throughout the world they took their bread with them. Every culture has its own unique take on bread. The Middle East, for example enjoys khubz adi, the flat round bread known in the West as pita. The pita evolved as a way to soak up sauces and the remnants of the main dish and eventually became an essential aspect of the meal. The characteristic pocket inside pita is created by cooking the bread at a high temperature causing the dough to puff up. Then when removed from the oven the pita deflates while the dough inside separates.

In Mexico they indulge with pan dulce, or sweet bread. Panaderias crank out a variety of these sugar-coated sweets all morning long as families bustle in an out. The most common and popular of these treats are called conchas, Spanish for seashell. They consist of a basic bread base with a thick covering of crispy sugar on top. The sugar coating is dyed to produce a variety of bright, cheerful colors, the most popular being pink and yellow and is arranged in various swirls, making the bread resemble a seashell. One of the most amusing types of pan is the puerquito, or little pig. It genuinely resembles in shape a tiny pig and surprisingly tastes like gingerbread. Mexican pan is a wonderful blending of cultures as each unique piece was influenced from a different region. Mexican soldiers brought back foods from the areas they were positioned during the Mexican Revolution and worked the flavors into their own recipes. Not to mention the French influence, responsible for the many pans that have a variant of the whipped cream filling. This introduced to Mexico by Emperor Maximillian’s French wife Charlotte.

Even the Irish have their own special bread- Irish soda bread. Traditionally served in the US in honor of St. Patrick’s Day it first appeared in Ireland around the 1840’s with the introduction of bicarbonate of soda. Ireland’s northern climate makes it difficult to grow hard wheat, which is processed into a flour that easily rises with the addition of yeast. The Irish replaced yeast with bicarbonate of soda as the leavening agent in bread, and soda bread was born. It quickly became a quintessential part of the Irish diet. The bread isn’t complete until the customary cross is imprinted into it. Whether this is done to allow the cooking bread to expand or to ward off evil is still debatable. Traditional soda bread contains only flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk. However over time the bread has been redeveloped into a sweeter form, with sugar and raisins, also known as “Spotted Dog."

Whether it’s our Americanized white sliced bread, the crunchy baguette, or the soft and buttery naan, bread is everywhere. Throughout history bread has been a staple, providing nourishment and flair where ever it goes. It has permeated our culture, uniting us in our shared dependency.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms

button mushrooms stuffed with a mixture of herbs, breadcrumbs, and crabmeat
photo by Kendall Haupt

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Saturday Blog Lovin' - Jose Garces Interview

Blog: two.one.five Magazine

Check out this interview with recent James Beard Award winner Jose Garces to hear his thoughts on food, Philly, and his future.

Note: Click here to see the original post.

Friday, May 8, 2009

A Perfect Picnic

A crisp breeze in the air. Sun rays pressing down on your skin. The fresh, welcome scent that comes with the change of the seasons. It's springtime, and it's time to enjoy the outdoors. There is no better way to get out and have a good time than to go on a picnic expedition. Whether you're with a group of friends or on a romantic tryst, a picnic is a relaxing experience that can slow down an otherwise hectic life.

There are plenty of picnic options convenient to the University of Pennsylvania. If you're looking for an impromptu getaway, Clark Park is close to campus and easy to get to. Another great place to try is Rittenhouse Square. Though it may not be the first place that comes to mind for a picnic, its lively setting and relatively close proximity make it a nice place to escape for an afternoon. If you are looking for a full-day activity, Fairmount Park is the place to go. There are a myriad number of places to explore, and a picnic is a great way to get off campus and try something new. It will take a little extra work – a car is a plus! – but it is definitely worth the work.

Preparing the perfect picnic involves creativity and inspiration. Fresh fruit and cheese are always great as starters.. Try to get fruits in season if possible. A starter should be light, so other options include salads or veggies and dip. If you decide to go with a messier offering, make sure to bring wipes - sticky hands will be with you all day!

The sandwich is the part of the meal where you can be creative. Sandwiches are easy to create and eat, and they travel well, making them a great picnic food. Don’t just settle for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich– go big! Bread can be the most important part of a sandwich, so make sure you don’t ruin an otherwise great one with Wonderbread. Also – try to reach beyond the cold cuts and take the time to prepare a unique and flavorful sandwich. Try out new combinations and flavors. It’s easy!

Dessert is a bit tougher. You want something sweet and refreshing on a hot day, all while making sure that it will endure the trip. A pie is always a solid choice. Though not the easiest to eat, it is definitely a refreshing and fitting choice for a picnic. Homemade granola is also great to snack on. You can eat it throughout the day, and it’s a delicious and healthy treat that’s easy to make.

-Sliced Pear and Jarlsberg Cheese
-Grilled Chicken, Sharp Cheddar, and Romaine with Balsamic Vinaigrette on a Crunchy Ciabatta or Foccacia Bread
-Homemade Granola
Base: Oats, Brown Sugar, Oil – Preferably Canola Oil
Add-ins: Dried cranberries, raisins, honey, coconut, vanilla, nuts, cinnamon, or anything else you can think of!
Mix all ingredients and spread evenly on a greased baking sheet
Bake at 400 degrees for between 20-30 minutes, depending on your taste.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


the house specialty is cannoli at Isgro, an old-fashioned bakery in South Philly
photo from Isgro's website

When was the last time you went to a real bakery? And not a coffee shop that also happens to sell muffins and danishes along with 15 different types of coffee? For most of us I think it has been a while, simply because there aren't that many of them left. With the advent of coffee shops who do in house baking and the supermarket bakeries, community bakeries have all but disappeared. But Isgro Pasticceria at 1009 Christian Street in South Philadelphia has been serving the community for over 100 years.

I paid the bakery a visit early on a Saturday morning, and the small storefront was already packed with people. The small aisle facing the cases of confections is thinner than one at a supermarket, so 10 people made it feel a little claustrophobic. None of us cared too much though, as we perused the wide array of cookies, cakes, custards, rolls, tarts and turnovers, and of course the cannoli. Half the customers, including myself, had come in for cannoli, the house specialty.

Indeed, the cannoli are excellent, but the bakery has many more cakes and cookies that you can really only find at a real bakery. Peaches and Cream is a small spongecake that is soaked in peach schnapps and filled with peach custard and the best part: it looks like a small peach, covered in orange and pink sugar

Once you visit once, you'll be dying to return to Isgro over and over again so that you can try everything. So I encourage you to make a trip to South Philly to get a cannoli, or almost any other dessert you can imagine, because Isgro probably has it--along with a few more desserts you haven't even thought of.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Wipe Out! : Gruesome Greasefest in Seaside Heights

"Cajun-style" sauteed shrimp in Seaside Heights
photo by Jonathan Prull

Last Saturday a couple of friends and I piled into a car and headed for the shore. We heard it was going to be gloriously hot, and it was – in Philly. When we got to Seaside Heights the wind had picked up and an announcement told us the temperature was 68. I don’t speak Fahrenheit but it was chilly enough that I had a hat on and two towels around my shoulders, cape-fashion. It was too cold to lie on the beach for long, so I got up and trawled the boardwalk to indulge in my morbid fascination for carny beach food.

I started off with deep fried Oreos: 6 for $5. Yes, they are as horrifically decadent as they sound, but good golly are they tasty. Heated, the chocolate biscuit turns to pillowy goodness (I could wax poetic here about how the biscuit and the filling become one - but I won't) and the golden brown crispy batter is a surprisingly good pairing. I do love Oreos. Yes yes, trans fats, fake flavoring and shelf-stable icing but…everyone needs a vice or two, right??? (Just don’t tell Michael Pollan.) Then I moved on to a salmon avocado temaki ($5.50), which was actually, unexpectedly, pretty great for a boardwalk seafood stand. Expertly rolled and stuffed with a generous amount of fish and a fan of sliced avo. Mmm mmm. I continued down the way and sampled a ‘zeppole’ from a pizza stand: “It’s a fried dough ball sprinkled with powdered sugar, hon.” Sprinkled? More like doused. Ouf! $3 for 4, or $1 apiece. A knot of greasy glory, but two bites and I was done. Soon after one of my friends had a craving for some sweet potato fries ($4 for a small), so I said, sure, sign me up. (I heart sweet potatoes. Am thinking about getting a tattoo of same.) Quite, quite fantastic: medium-cut, lightly salted, crispy on the ends and fluffy in the middle. Bucket still in hand, we moseyed along and glanced at a menu across the way, and thought a half-pound of shrimp sautéed “Cajun-style” – tossed before our eyes in a skillet with garlic, olive oil, chopped tomatoes, chilli powder etc - for $9.99 sounded like a good deal, so we split that too. Cajun? Eh. But it was yummy nonetheless - fresh, tender and flavorful.

By then the sun was going down, so we waddled off to find our car and headed back into Philly. It was warm when we got there, and I would’ve liked a water ice to finish off the day…but there was no way I could’ve fit it in. Sigh. So much food, so little stomach space. Til next time, wooter oice.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Salt and Pepper

photo by Kendall Haupt

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Saturday Blog Lovin' - Yogurt Spiced Chicken with Cilantro and Lime

Blog: chocolate shavings

This yogurt spiced chicken with cilantro and lime is is a light, summery meal that would make a fun and delicious study break!  Check out this blog for more creative and tasty recipes.

Note: Click here to see the original post.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Giorgio on Pine

On the last day of classes, I decided to treat myself and a group of my friends to a nice dinner in the very early celebration of my birthday. After hours and hours of searching online, I stumbled upon the relatively unknown Giorgio on Pine, conveniently located in Center City. After seeing that it had received several great reviews, I decided to make a reservation.

As usual, our group was a little late getting to the restaurant. But the moment we walked in the door, the owner, a very cheerful man, quickly showed us to our table. Upon seating us, they served us with freshly baked bread and an olive oil dip that was simple, but delicious with the bread. The waitress who took our orders was very friendly and helpful, offering suggestions to those who were having a hard time choosing from all the delicious sounding entrees on the menu. The restaurant was also very cooperative, allowing several of us to slightly alter what we ordered, such as making it vegetarian or substituting in other sauces. Unlike some of the small BYOs I have been to, Giorgio’s had a wide selection of appetizers, pastas, and main dishes to choose from.

I ordered gnocchi with parmesan cheese and a braised beef ragout, and several of my friends ordered cheese ravioli with a marinara or tomato cream sauce. Other order choices included rigatoni with sausage and bell peppers in a marinara or white sauce, and linguini with prosciutto, sweet peas, shitake, and cream sauce with a touch of tomato. The pasta is freshly handmade daily, and it’s easy to customize your order as well with whatever sauce you would like.

The gnocchi was some of the best I had ever had. It almost melted in my mouth when I was eating it. From the looks on my friends’ faces, their food was just as delectable. The food was fresh and warm when it was served, and the ragout sauce was simple but full of flavor, with just the right amount of tanginess. The freshly grated Parmesan cheese also complemented the sauce very nicely.

Just when I thought my dining experience couldn’t get any better, the servers surprised us with 3 of their homemade desserts. This included tiramisu, cream cheese cake, and their chocolate cake. The chocolate cake was served with vanilla ice cream and was perfect for me, the chocoholic. It had the perfect balance between the bitterness and sweetness of chocolate. Unfortunately, I didn’t try the other desserts so I can’t comment on those.

One of the best things about Giorgio’s is that none of their dishes cost over $20. Most are priced around the $13-$15 range, which is perfect for a student’s tight budget. Their service was wonderful – they were prompt and easy to talk to, as well as very accommodating. It was also nice to see diners who seemed to be regulars, evident by their casual chit chatting with the servers and the owner. The interior was charming; it was reminiscent of casual European dining, and even though it was small, it didn’t feel cramped. Even though at one point we were the only group there, it wasn’t awkward and the atmosphere was very comfortable. The food was simple, but refreshingly different from some other Italian establishments.

I would highly recommend this restaurant for anyone who is looking for a new Italian BYO to try out, some place other than La Viola, La Fontana, and the like. If you’re looking for simple but great Italian food, impeccable service, and a comfortable atmosphere, then this is the place for you. I would also recommend that you make a reservation, since they are small and can only accommodate about two large groups at a time.

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