Product Review

Sky Castle Gastro Lounge Review

Looking for a casual restaurant, with an upbeat vibe, and upscale, but affordable food? Look no further than Lakeview’s newest Foodie Haven… Sky Castle Gastro Lounge!  Chef Haller Magee has upgraded Lakeview’s culinary offerings in an innovative way that is guaranteed to be a neighborhood favorite!

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gastro 3

What Did I Sample?

For Snacks our table devoured the Roasted Cauliflower and Radish Toast!  Both are highly recommended!  The snacks added enough flavor to wet my appetite while leaving room for my entrée!

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gastro

As for main dishes, it was all about the red meat!  The Sky Castle Burger could be up for awards in the near future!  And that’s saying a lot since Birmingham is home to some pretty fine burgers!  The homemade bread and butter pickles paired nicely with the tomato jam, caramelized onions, and smoked cheddar cheese! It’s a triple threat guaranteed to give you flavor explosion!

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gastro 2

I can also personally vouch for the Red Wine Braised Short Ribs that were served with a butternut squash puree and charred brussels sprouts! The short ribs were packed with flavor and seasoned with perfection! Well done Sky Castle!!!

What a great environment to watch your favorite sports team, catch up with good friends, and celebrate good food!  Great memories will be had at Sky Castle Gastro Lounge! This establishment adds new personality to the Birmingham food scene!

6 Local Birmingham Eats

Support our lovely city of Birmingham by eating local!

Babalu

The best part about their food: locally grown! One of my favorite dishes involved their delicious grits that are grown in Wilsonville, AL, McEwen & Sons. They were the perfect amount of flavor underneath the Braised Beef Short Rib, which was also amazing. The portions are the exact right amount for full satiety without being too large.

beef

When you taste their food you can tell that it is made with care and fresh, fresh, fresh! Their food items are made daily and even their margaritas are made with fresh ingredients (I highly recommend their baba-rita).

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They are partnered with Jones Valley Teaching Farm, a non-profit organization, to promote the education on locally grown foods. Jones Valley Teaching Farm is dedicated to educating the young community on what these fresh foods can do for your body! They provide many opportunities to volunteer and get involved here.

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Sprout and Pour

Sprout & Pour has been around Alabama for some time at various farmers markets but has just opened a storefront in the heart of Edgewood!  Sprout & Pour is family owned and uses fresh and local produce to make their cold pressed juices and serves up whole food smoothies!  Many juicing techniques lose key nutrients in their methods, but Sprout & Pour utilizes a cold-pressed method that preserves the vital nutrients in the local produce they use to create their nutrient dense treats!!

Galley and Garden

The galley is the kitchen and the garden is the area for you to enjoy your delicious meal. The chef, James Boyce, originates from Huntsville and owns three successful restaurants there. The restaurant has only been open for a short time and already has stirred talk around the town. The menu features modern American-French style with southern influences. I recommend trying the Grilled Hearts of Romaine salad and Pan Roasted Gulf Mangrove Snapper.

Dreamcakes

Dreamcakes is a locally owned bakery in the heart of Edgewood!  This bakery shares the cupcake love by sending cupcake trucks around the city!!! The creative team at Dreamcakes are consistently impressive at serving up whimsical excitement throughout the year with cupcake flavors and festive treats!  For example, during a pit-stop in October, the Wednesday special was the Sorting Hat cupcake. The Sorting Hat is Harry Potter themed and underneath the chocolate dipped topping is a SURPRISE FLAVOR! Nothing gets me like a hidden surprise inside a delicious cupcake.  Besides cupcakes there are cakes, brownies, chocolate strawberries, macaroons, and oatmeal crème pies. The shop is quaint and in the perfect area to eat outside and walk around to shop locally afterwards.  NutriFocusRD urges everyone to experience this unique & delectable bakery!!!

cupcake

Oli.O

Another family owned operation, Oli.O sells fresh olive oils and balsamic vinegars. These oils are from all over the world including: Spain, Italy, South Africa, Australia, California, and more! The shop provides tastings so you can see which oil or vinegar your taste buds prefer! One of my favorite new things to test out in recipes is infused olive oils and Oli.O has some great varieties like: chipotle, cilantro and roasted onion, organic basil, organic butter, and more! If you check out their website, they provide some recipes for your everyday needs.

Hotbox

Hotbox is considered a “permanent food stand” in the courtyard of Parkside in Avondale. I love the Avondale area, especially on a warn day when you can grab a dish at surrounding restaurants and eat at Avondale Brewery. Hotbox would be perfect for that very idea! Their menu has so much variety I would not know how to describe it besides: my perfect menu. Spicy soba noodles, beets and bok choy, carnitas tostada, and pork belly drunken noodle are on the top of my list. My mouth is watering as I type…

Therese Bridges

BUY OR DENY? - POPCHIPS

You've heard of potato chops, but have you heard of Popchips?!!

I recently tried this product after a request from a client!! As I searched the grocery store for this product I finally found two bags left on the potato chips aisle pushed all the way back into the back! I took this as a "not good sign" but kept an open mind as I took my product home to sample!  I purchased original flavor and BBQ flavor.

What is a PopChip?

The company wanted to make a product available for individuals looking for a  snack that did not have trans fats, cholesterol, or saturated fat.  This resulted in the creation of the popchip. They are made by taking potatoes, adding heat and pressure, “popping” the product into a chip, and adding seasoning for flavor.

Flavor choices include: original potato, barbeque potato, sour cream & onion potato, cheddar potato, sea salt & vinegar potato, salt & pepper potato, parmesan garlic potato

For those out there that love a salty snack, this is a great choice over regular potato chips! You can get the same crunch and salty flavor without the preservatives, trans fats, saturated fats, or cholesterol!!   The one downside was the cost. I paid approx. $3.70 per bag and each bag only has 3 servings!!  So it is a little unreasonable for a larger family, but maybe in time we will see a decrease in the price!

Its A Cracker, Its A Chip... Wait, Its BOTH!!!

While walking around in Publix I noticed a stand in a prime location near the bakery section promoting a new product my Special K and the name peaked my interest. The new product was called “cracker chips”.  I normally do not purchase Special K products because the ingredients do not provide the nutrition that other ready-to-eat cereals provide. I also do not prefer the taste or the “diet” image this company represents.  But knowing that my clients like to get reviews on new products, I purchased a box and put the cracker chip to the test.

It is not quite a cracker, and not just a chip, so the texture threw me off a little bit.  I was so unsure of what to expect.  27 cracker chips make up one serving which supplies 1 carbohydrate exchanges and ½ fat exchange.  The product had a mild flavor which tasted good, but highly processed.

The cost of a box of cracker chips was slightly expensive. One box was slightly over $4.00 and the amount the box contained only provided my household with 4 servings!  After the initial sticker shock, I reviewed the ingredient list which included:

POTATOES, POTATO STARCH, LONG GRAIN BROWN RICE FLOUR, SOYBEAN OIL (WITH TBHQ FOR FRESHNESS), WHOLE YELLOW CORN MEAL, OAT FIBER, SALT, ONION POWDER, CONTAINS TWO PERCENT OR LESS OF SOUR CREAM (CULTURED CREAM, NONFAT DRY MILK), DEXTROSE, BUTTERMILK, NONFAT MILK, SUGAR, COCONUT OIL, CORN SYRUP SOLIDS, SODIUM CASEINATE, MONO- AND DIGLYCERIDES, NATURAL FLAVORS, WHEY, WHEAT FLOUR, DEFATTED SOY FLOUR, SESAME FLOUR, CITRIC ACID, LACTIC ACID, SPICE, YEAST EXTRACT, MALIC ACID, DISODIUM INOSINATE, DISODIUM GUANYLATE, ASCORBIC ACID (VITAMIN C), SOY LECITHIN

A few additives I’ve explained below:

  • TBHQ is the short name for tert-butylhydroquinone. TBHQ is a synthetic antioxidant that is added to oils and fats to slow down spoilage. Vegetable oils contain a natural antioxidant called tocopherol (aka vitamin E); however, the amount present in oils is often not enough for oxidative stability and the addition of extra tocopherol does not really help so a synthetic was created.
  • Dextrose is better known as glucose and occurs naturally in foods.
  • Corn Syrup Solids are produced when corn syrup has been concentrated to contain less than 10% of water.  To qualify as "corn syrup solids," the glucose content must be at least 88% of the weight of the concentrated syrup.
  • Disodium Inosinate is a food additive often found in instant noodles, potato chips, and a variety of other snacks and used as a flavor enhancer.
  • Disodium Guanylate is a flavor enhancer which belongs to the same family as a monosodium glutamate (MSG).  Disodium inosinate is often used in conjuction with disodium inosinate. It is 50 to 100 times more potent than monosodium glutamate and enhances a variety of flavors, modifies salty or sweet flavors, and suppresses undesirable flavors.

Another important fact to point out about the ingredient list is the small amount of wheat flour used in the product. I can tell this by where the ingredient falls within the ingredient list orders. When reading an ingredient list, all items are listed in order that represents the ingredient used most to the ingredient used the least within the designated product.

In summary, the product had a pleasant taste, but in general I would not recommend this product to a client. There are many other whole grain options for a better price,  both monetarily and nutritionally!

Meet The Newest Kashi Family Member!

Have you met the newest member of the Kashi brand Cereals? As I’m walking through Publix on Saturday, I was introduced to their newest product called Golden Delicious!

Nutrition Summary:

Once I returned home, I looked over the ingredient list to see what this product had to offer.  The first ingredient was “Seven Grain Blend” which is made up of whole: oats, brown rice, red wheat, rye, triticale, barley, and buckwheat!  Evaporated cane juice was within the top 5 ingredients which makes this the main sweetening agent.  Although there are better substitutes, evaporated cane juice is a healthy alternative to refined sugar. Both sugar and evaporated cane juice are made from sugar cane, but evaporated cane juice does not undergo the same degree of processing that refined sugar does.  Since the product has 5g of fiber per serving, it is considered a high fiber food.  Per 1 ¼ cup servings, this cereal offers 48 grams of total whole grains.  Once the fiber is subtracted the cereal offers 43 grams of net carbohydrates which would bring this cereal to a total exchange count of 3 carbohydrates!  Since breakfast is where you need the most energy to kick start your morning, the amount is acceptable!  This product has no artificial sweeteners, flavors, colors, or preservatives.

Taste Summary:

I have to give this cereal an A for taste and texture. The tiny flakes have the ability to really soak up the milk but still keep a nice crunch.  The flake and cluster combo provide a whole grain taste with a touch of honey and molasses.  I believe this would be a great cereal for a family because the kids would love the sweetness!  Let me know your thoughts when you try this cereal!!!

Product Review: Cinnamon Burst Cheerios!

I love Cheerios, and I’m not talking about the cheerleading squad on the prime time TV show Glee!  Cheerios are a childhood classic and a staple in most American homes.  You can imagine my surprise when I found cheerios on sale at Publix, BOGO!!  And to add to my surprise I saw a NEW FLAVOR!!!!  CINNAMON BURST!

Cinnamon is the perfect for the winter because of its warm flavor.  Other than the great flavor, cinnamon offers numerous health benefits, including:

  • Can improve LDL levels by adding ½ tsp per day
  • Several studies suggest that cinnamon may have a regulatory effect on blood sugar, making it especially beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes.
  • Cinnamon has an anti-clotting effect on the blood.
  • Cinnamon has shown an ability to stop medication-resistant yeast infections in recent studies.
  • Cinnamon can act as a natural food preservative by inhibiting bacterial growth and food spoilage.

As we all know, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Cheerios has been known to be a part of a healthy, balanced breakfast due to its ingredients that help promote health.  Do you know what Cheerios can do for you?

Cheerios are made of oats which contain soluble fiber that can help lower cholesterol.  Oats act as tiny sponges that can help soak up some cholesterol and naturally remove it from your body.  The soluble fiber forms a gel in your digestive system, which binds to the cholesterol in your so it is “trapped” and removed from your body.  Oats have more soluble fiber than whole wheat, rice, or corn.  Oats also contain vitamins, minerals and unique antioxidants, which help add to their nutritional scoreboard!

What else can you find in Cheerios:

  • 110 Calories per ¾ Cup Serving
  • 20% of Daily Value of Fiber
  • It is Considered a Low-Fat Food Because the Fat Content is Below 3 grams or less of Fat Per Serving
  • Each Serving is Saturated Fat FREE!!!
  • Naturally Cholesterol Free
  • Contains at Least 10% of the Daily Value of Calcium per Serving.
  • Contains at Least 10% of the Daily Value of Vitamin D per Serving.
  • Contains at Least 8 grams of Whole Grain per Serving Which Puts You on Your Way To Meeting The Recommended Amount of 48 Grams per Day.

This product gets an A+ for adding great flavor and TONS of nutritional benefits to my breakfast table!

Food & Friends: Food's Social Aspect (Part 4)

Upon waking up on day 2 of our mini-Texas vacation, we walked to a unique, coffee “stop” just around the corner from our adorable abode.  Jo’s Hot Coffee (http://www.joscoffee.com/congress/jossouthcongress.htm) is located next to San Jose Hotel, a hip hotel tucked away in luscious greenery, in the funky district of south Austin.Jo’s menu did not include just your ordinary coffeehouse selections. Jo’s menu included fresh baked goods, hot & cold coffee beverages, deli-style sandwiches, side items (potato salad, coleslaw, fresh fruit, chips, and shredded green salad), beer, and cigarettes! Since it was breakfast time, I was focused mainly on the breakfast menu which included breakfast tacos (which seemed to be a popular menu item in Austin), fresh baked muffins, and homemade granola!

The main advertisement on their aluminum siding shack, bragged about an original specialty drink called “Iced Turbo”.  I decided I must go with their original creation to ensure I was experiencing Austin's food genre!  So I ordered a small “Iced Turbo” and picked up a bag of homemade granola.  Since Mike and I planned to nibble on each other’s food, he picked out a freshly baked blueberry muffin!  Both items were absolutely incredible, but the true essence of Jo’s was captured in the funky, eclectic environment that consisted of an aluminum shack, random outdoor tables, non-matching chairs, and the ambiance that encouraged friends to converse and people watch as the city of Austin begin to awaken!

On the way back to the house, we decided we better go ahead and pick up cupcakes from “Hey Cupcake” (www.heycupcake.com/) since they were closed the previous night when we wanted to pick up a few treats.  Just like Jo’s, Hey Cupcake was a small establishment, (it was actually a trailer) located on the side of South Congress Avenue.  By the looks of the trailor, you would never realized that located inside was an array of delicious, delectable, freshly baked cupcakes!  Their slogan: “Who You Callin Cupcake?”

As we began reading through the menu, the decision making process became more difficult with each menu item!  So I, the dietitian, make the final decision that a decision does not have to be made because I read a sign that states “The Dozen Deal: Buy 11 cupcakes and Get 1 Free” so that is exactly what I ordered.  I asked for two cupcakes of each flavor and agreed to a sampler party later on that evening with April, Zach, and Mike!  Our "dozen deal" flavors included: Vanilla Dream, Carrot Cake, Red Velvet, Pumpkinator, Michael Jackson, and Sweetberry!

 

After sampling a combination of the Pumpkinator, Sweetberry, Carrot Cake, and Red Velvet, I claimed the Pumpkinator (the Pumpkinator cupcake is the third cupcake from the top in the box on the right-hand side in the picture above) as the winner of my personal taste test. I have to admit that my cupcake taste buds are hard to win over since I am a Birmingahm local with unlimited access to Dreamcakes Bakery (www.dreamcakes-bakery.com)  in Homewood! Although "Hey Cupcake" put up a strong fight with the Sweetberry cupcake (equivalent to Dreamcakes Simply Strawberry cupcake), I still claim Dreamcakes as the champion of strawberry cupcake making!

With a cupcake sampler plate consumed, a tall glass of organic milk to wash it all down, and tired feet from walking the city of Austin all day, it was no doubt the perfect combination to get us all ready for bed!

Austin's laid back environment continues to intrigue me on our visit.  I think the following quote can really sum up the unique and inviting restaurant industry in Austin, Texas! It's good food without the haughty attitude!

"Never trust the food in a restaurant on top of the tallest building in town that spends a lot of time folding napkins."

~ Andy Rooney

Food & Friends - Food's Social Aspect (Part 1)

In America, food can be the central focus in the majority of social scenes.  For those who suffer from disordered eating or eating disorders, this can be paralyzing and increase the desire to isolate.  I am a dietitian who is passionate about removing rigid “food rules” and striving to help individuals learn how to enjoy food without limitations, but in moderation. With the holidays approaching, social eating will be on the rise.  With that being said, I wanted to share a few of my experiences dining out with my friends in a new miniseries I am calling “Food & Friends – Food’s Social Aspect.” This miniseries will be a chance for me to share a few personal experiences involving different foods I’ve recently tried, either directly and indirectly, related to a social setting in hopes to encourage you to stop allowing a diet mentality to dictate the type of relationships in your life!!  Perhaps you can also use the restaurant reviews as a way to decide where your next girls’ night out will be!

Memphis, Tennessee – October 29th – 31st

It is imperative that all women have good girlfriends.  They can be the very foundation on which we stand to survive life’s mishaps and celebrate life’s goodness.  I am very fortunate and have a few close knit friends that I consider part of my family!

During this particular weekend, a couple of my girlfriends and I planned to see “Wicked” at the Orpheum  in Memphis, TN to celebrate Halloween weekend in a new and different way!  Ms. Katrina (my BF’s mom) kicked off the weekend by giving us a “Wicked” happy which included an adorable witch mug filled with all our favorite candies!

Next, my friends and I met for a girls’ night out dinner at a fabulous restaurant called Bluefin. (www.bluefinmemphis.com) If you are ever in Memphis, you MUST put this on your to-do list.

We started off our wonderful meal with an appetizer of edamame!

April and I wanted to try sushi and an entrée so we decided to split sushi and a flatbread pizza cooked in a wood oven.

Christina is the meat eater of the group so she enjoyed a delectable steak with shoestring French fries.  Everyone left the table impressed with the service, in awe of the atmosphere, and more than satisfied by the quality of food!

We had a blast watching “Wicked” at the Orpheum!!  If you are looking to plan an entertaining evening, check out the schedule to see when “Wicked” will be near you!

And of course the night was not over until we had DESSERT!!  Dessert came from Dreamcakes Bakery (www.dreamcakes-bakery.com)  located in the Edgewood District of Homewood in Birmingham, AL. Dreamcakes' cupcakes are definitely the best in the southeast, if not the entire country! My personal cupcake favorite is the "Simply Strawberry" followed closely by "Pumpkin".  April's favorite cupcake is "Over the Moon" which is a flavor that can only be found at Dreamcakes Bakery, and my husband's favorite cupcake is the traditional white cake with white icing that  is called "Wedding Cake".  They have a cupcake for everyone along the spectrum!

The imaginative flavors and wonderful quality make the cupcakes more than dessert, they are an experience! Their slogan perfectly describes this establishment, "Cupcakes make people happy!".

Let me know if you've tried Bluefin or Dreamcakes Bakery in the past or if you do in the future! I would love to hear reviews from other members of the NutriFocus family!!

In closing, I leave you with the following quote, which I feel fully describes a "healthy" relationship with food  -

"Everything in moderation... including moderation." ~ Julia Childs

"On The Go Snacking" Can Be Healthy!

A lot of clients ask my opinion on the numerous brands and types of protein/energy bars on the market.  I can easily see how consumers are confused when they are trying to make a decision in front of hundreds of bar choices!  It is important to keep energy/snack bars on hand for when your schedule prompts you to eat on the run!  Recently "Cooking Light" put together an article about their top energy bar choices. I agree with most of the information so I wanted to pass it along to my NutriFocus family!  Click the link below to be redirected to the article!

Top Energy Bar Choices

Picking Packaged Food!

There is TONS of nutrition information on the internet, and TONS of conflicting nutrition recommendations so I can see why my clients (as well as  my family and friends) get easily confused when deciding what foods to purchase!  "Women's Health" put together an extensive list of the "Best Packaged Foods for Women" which I have reviewed and agree with for the most part! I thought the NutriFocus family would enjoy this information and could possibly use it as a guide on their next grocery run!  Click the following link: BEST PACKAGED FOODS FOR WOMEN If you have tried any of the featured products, or you try in the future, please give feedback and let us know what you think!

Buy or Deny?: NutriFocus RD's Product Review

Arnold’s Bread now has “Healthful 10-Grain” which is a great way to get nutty, hearty bread without losing site of nutrition.  After trying 2 loaves, my husband and I both agree this bread is a keeper. I would highly recommend this bread to any of my clients, family, or friends for multiple reasons:

  • Arnold’s did a great job keeping this bread within proper portion size.
  • Each slice is equivalent to 1 carbohydrate exchange, contains 10 whole grains, and has no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.
  • Each slice is packed with whole wheat goodness, including 4 grams of fiber per slice!
  • Every slice is hearty and adds great texture and taste to sandwiches which helps keeps lunchtime boredom at bay
  • Each slice is packed with 5g of protein to help sustain your energy levels
  • Freezable! Does not lose taste or texture when frozen!!

Other Recommendation(s):

Add a little  color by putting Pecan Pumpkin Butter on a toasted sliced of Arnold's Healthful 10-Grain bread! Great way to add flavor and comfort to your breakfast or a great escape to enjoy for a snack! I personally like Williams-Sonoma's Pecan Pumpkin Butter which can easily be found in all stores during this time of year!

Arnold’s Healthful 10-grain bread can be found at most local grocery stores. I personally purchase this bread at Publix. I have not been able to locate this bread at Target. If anyone else finds this bread at a different location leave a comment and let us know!