With the warmth of summer still here in Northern California but the darker cooler evenings in full force, it feels like fall even with all the warmth and sunshine. No rains yet but I "feel" fall. That statement would surprise those living back East where the falls are the most beautiful, but even here in my area I get the same fall feeling in the afternoons I had living in Michigan or Connecticut years ago. Fall is more subtle here but still very real, contrary to what many think.

So with the change in feeling, what is one to cook? I've been thinking about pulling out the late fall comfort foods to cook but that will wait for the rain to come in November. And with heirloom tomatoes still on the vine it has me cooking lighter summer foods but taking advantage of the beginning of fall and the great tomatoes, basil in the garden, and lemons from the tree in my back yard.  

With that thought in mind, last night I decided to cook some healthy Veal Picatta along with some heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil bruschetta. Kept dinner more "paleo" and minimized the carbs by eliminating the pasta course I would otherwise do as a side for the Veal Picatta. Nice small baguette in thin slices grilled with char marks...super simple with tomatoes from the garden, mashed garlic, fresh chopped basil, bit of coarse black pepper and salt over the charred bread. Served with simple veal scaloppini pounded thin and cooked in a bit of olive oil, small amount of butter, dash of white wine and fresh lemon juice and capers. Great fantastic meal. Served with a Mount Veeder Cab it was an awesome simple dinner before a movie to relax on the weekend. Late summer/beginning of fall dinner, easy, healthy and delicious. Fits the mood. And with more changes coming with the weather, more new things to try to keep dinner interesting depending on the mood and what you are feeling.

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Lately with the rain stopping in California and temps in the 70's to 90's, I find
myself transitioning out of super-healthy winter comfort food (like Pork Medallions in White Wine Green Peppercorn Sauce) to healthy more summery fit food from all over.  Paleo type food high in protein, colorful vegetables full of anti-oxidants and flavor, with bite, variety, and edge.  On a warm night you might want light simple flavors but on a hot night a super-spicy high-protein Mexican or Indian dish.  I find he change in weather and mood dictates what you get inspired and put your energy towards cooking.  

So what food works now? For Cinco de Mayo, I somehow cooked a
simple Vietnamese chicken soup with bean sprouts, mint, basil, serranos and rice noodles with lime.  Not right, but what I felt like after being inspired from a recent work trip to Vietnam.  A week later I finally did Cinco De Mayo and served Carne Asada Steak Tacos with Avocado Tomatillo Sauce.  Last week my taste buds went for Northern Yucatan for Habanero Cold Shredded Beef Salad Tacos with radishes, cilantro, tomatoes, red onions and finely chopped habaneros – hot, light and as healthy as you can get. Spicy Mongolian Beef – done the healthy way was also on the menu as was Chinese Garlic Ginger Chicken and Vegetables.  Later came Grilled Thai Beef Salad with cilantro, basil mint and lime – and of course hot Thai chilies as I still was hungry for the food I had in Vietnam.

And of course lets not forget the old standby - the grill.  The one cooking utensil most men have figured out.  Smoked some meat with char-grilled sweet corn rubbed with chipotle powder and I also grilled some high protein very lean steak served with a garlic chimichurri sauce.  Good.

Those were the simpler faster meals I did during the week (simple techniques make it possible).  But on the weekend when I had more time I did a hand-tossed Garlic Pancetta Pizza.  Inspired by recent work trips - one from one of the best simple Italian restaurants in St Louis -  Pastaria; another from a trendy pizza place in nearby San Francisco - Ragazza.  

Most of the above recipes are in my cookbook Every Day Fit Gourmet.  But a few  are recent "made-up,  on-the-fly" simple, fast meals – you need to cook what you are  feeling and in the mood for – everyday.  So whatever you are cooking, don’t
get stuck in a rut, mix it up, tune into your mood and weather – and most importantly have fun and enjoy.

Chicken in Garlic Sauce - my take on a French bistro classic
This time of the year even here in California it gets cold.  In a week it can go from warm 70’s to cool days with nights I usually have a fire burning. It’s at this time of the year after we've rolled back the clocks losing an hour each night that the nights gets icy and out comes our hibernating instinct.  With the change, it's harder to stick to workouts and easy to eat some really bad (but good!) food.  I find   myself wanting to eat what can be pound-packing “comfort” foods.  I crave them and not in small quantities.  And to make  matters even worse, with the leaves turning in wine country, not only do I find myself wanting to eat more heavier foods but I also tend to drink more vino and head to Napa for extra wine tastings and good wine purchases.  Bottom line is November hits, the weather  cools and suddenly you can eat and drink more and slack off on your workouts.  Dangerous combination.  So what is  a person to do?  For me I don't want to settle - I want my comfort food this time of the year but I also want to stay healthy...

Potatoe Gnocci with Thyme and simple Bolognese
So let’s cut right to the chase:  what are some  approaches I'm using this past month or so to eat some of this great food but still keep it healthy?

First, I DO cook the "comfort food" but I try to keep it  healthy through ingredients and portions .  And if I do cook something less healthy like a Welsh meatpie, I do it rarely.  Recently, I cooked a French bistro chicken (recipe in my book - see above for an iPhone pic) and another night a thyme gnocchi with a Bolognese sauce (pic to the left and a couple iphone pics of the operation in production below - this one is not an "everyday" one in terms of time!).  The bistro chicken was very healthy  because of some techniques using little oil, a non-stick sauté pan, white wine for flavor and great anti-oxidant laden vegetables like carrots, celery and allicin-loaded garlic.  Moderate on the fat, super high in protein and flavor.   Similarly the gnocchi was healthy with potatoes and herbs but it could have been made healthier by eliminating the egg yolks from the gnocci or using whole eggs instead.  But sometimes its good to not cut corners on flavor.   And the sauce was super healthy with red wine, carrots, celery, onions, tomatoes and with lean ground veal for added protein.  Two relatively healthy super comfort foods.  One of these was not “every day” easy like most recipes in my book, but to kickoff the winter cooking I wanted to crank it up a bit.  So that’s the first key for comfort foods I shoot for:  Try to keep the fats down and add in the  healthy  ingredients.

Second – this is the most important rule I follow yet one I have a hard time with.  Watch the portions.  It is so easy to add an extra scoop or two.  Better to save the leftovers the next day for lunch or for a quick dinner later in the week.  For me I have found portions is the most important item to keep in line when cooking comfort food.  If I screw up here I will pack on the pounds.

Third, I try to go easy on the butter and turn to super-flavored sauces instead.  The Bistro Chicken for example has a white wine and herb sauce that also has pureed roasted garlic in it.  No need for butter here.  Similarly, this week I’m cooking a mustard seed crusted pork tenderloin in a wine sauce.   Super lean pork with some potatoes in a super low fat wine sauce.  All
the  flavor with the fat cut way down.  I also recently did a version of my grandmother's pork  steak and mashed potatoes that has one-fourth of the fat of her version by using  lean pork tenderloin with little added fat in a non-stick pan.  That particular one in  fact has 104% of your daily protein and only 22% of your fat – very good for a “comfort food meat dish”.  And with my son home from college,  I'm doing a simple chicken curry this week that is loaded with vegetables and protein, super healthy Indian spices (see this blog post for more) that has 72% of your protein and only 10% of your fat.  And tomorrow night a simple lean veal chop with lemon, parslely, garlic and just some salt and pepper - with a great salad and just some good bread it will be a great healthy simple dinner.  Even vegetables (other than mashed potatoes!) can be comfort food:  the other night I blanched for a couple minutes some thin french green beans and stir fried them with olive oil, mashed garlic, a very small dash of butter, and salt and pepper - super good and very healthy.  Everyone ate twice as many green beans as usual so the added flavor can actually get you eating more good food.
Duckhorn's Paraduxx Winery. Now this is how you taste...
Fourth, enjoy the wine over the holidays.  Below is a  picture from last month where at a wine tasting  at a favorite winery of mine Duckhorn’s Paraduxx  winery, we had a great Vigioner to start and then went right for the great reds including a favorite from Howell Mountain in Napa (any wine I've had from that mountain - regardless of the vineyard, I've loved).  Sometimes its fun to go all out.  I don't know if that's really a fit gourmet tip but I include this thought anyway because it fits with what and how I'm cooking comfort food right now.  Yep, wine is a good comfort food too.  Great by a fire with some homemade turkey soup....

So just a few thoughts on healthy comfort food.  It’s all about cutting fat, using the right techniques and ingredients, and watching portions - but still finding a way to have some great tasting comfort food when it gets cold and your body craves it.  Oh and don't forget you have to get out and exercise…some thoughts on that will likely be a topic for a future blog.
In my soon to be available book ( I discuss the healthy ratio of protein, carbs, fat in your diet that go with the recipes, but today I want to talk not about proper fueling in your daily diet but instead proper fueling during your workouts.  Until a workout friend got me into understanding proper fueling, I went for years ignoring it but the benefits of proper fueling are significant.  After a 22 mile training run yesterday I feel great today and I can say that proper fueling is a key reason and so I decided to make this the topic of this week's blog.
I do a good job eating great food and staying fit even with a busy workload through techniques I've developed over many years, but when I travel on business I still struggle with staying fit and eating great healthy food.
Cuvaison Winery: Runners lined up Here for the Start...
This week's blog is about fitness and food on a quick weekend trip to Napa for the Napa to Sonoma Half Marathon which started at the Cuvaison Winery in Napa and ended Sonoma's town square. Although the goal was to keep it healthy and a good competitive run, equally important is having fun in the run and in the food too. So what were some takeaways?

The last week I left on vacation and I decided not to tweet and unplug totally.  While there I didn't do as well at following my normal habits for eating and exercising to stay fit but it was nonetheless a great vacation. So I wanted to share some thoughts on what was fit and healthy eating and exercise and what wasn't.  It could have been a super-healthy vacation but I wasn't as disciplined as I normally am.  But for reasons I will explain shortly, even this can be a good thing.  So let's look at the Good and the Bad from the Every Day Fit Gourmet perspective...

This week' blog is about food and fitness tips for a healthy 4th of July. Just writing about this will help keep me honest on this one and make sure I follow some of my own thoughts/advice! But today's tips work not only for the 4th but for any weekend where we tend to over-indulge whether its Memorial Day, Christmas, or whenever we get together with friends and family to celebrate.
The blog this week is about simple fit gourmet techniques that add flavor that let you eat lower fat meals without adding fat. And it essentially boils down to four simple approaches: Spice Rubs, Flavorful Low Fat Sauces, Flavor with Herbs/Wine, Spices.
One of the keys to eating a gourmet great meal every night is smart eating the rest of the day. This article focuses on tips and techniques for smart eating. Many of these tips are from techniques used by many of the super-lean body builders with very low body fat. I've found they are a key part of the mix if you want to eat great food at night while still staying fit.
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    Every Day Fit GourmetTM 
    Ingredients, Cooking, Fitness

    A high tech marketing guy with no time who loves gourmet food from around the world, eats it every day, and cares about staying fit and healthy.