Have Your Cake

The Chefs at Grub Restaurant Dish
About Eating Well in Moderation

Assia Mortensen

This time of year, many of us are struggling to keep up with those New Year's resolutions, which seemed like such a terrific idea at the time: losing weight, beginning to exercise, leading a healthier lifestyle... What happened? The "Grub Gals," Denise DeCarlo and Betty Fraser, understand. They love food, and together operate a catering business called As You Like It Catering, as well as a restaurant, unpretentiously named Grub. Their specialty is what they call California comfort food, and let me tell you, it's not all low-fat. "But it's so well worth it!" Fraser enthuses.

"That being said, there are many things we can do to create a healthier lifestyle," she adds. "We have all heard this -- and yet it's so difficult to do -- and that's use moderation." She stresses eating a variety of foods, the fresher the better. "Being a woman who has had to watch what I eat all my life, you learn that if you want to partake in all that cuisine has to offer, you have to learn to be moderate. That is probably the best way to have your cake and eat it too, because you really can."

"If you're trying to diet, add lots of flavor, with fresh herbs, spices, etc., and that way you won't feel deprived."

Cutting back a bit works great too, according to Fraser. "If something calls for butter, use half the amount and a squeeze of lemon juice; that really electrifies the flavors," she says. "If you're going to sauté something, and Mom used butter, try it with olive or canola oil. Or to top vegetables, for example, half the butter with a squeeze of lemon." She also suggests, "In vegetable soup, instead of a heavy cream, you could boil lentils or peas and add that as a thickener, because you are looking for body." Fraser stresses cooking with the freshest, most flavorful ingredients: "If you're trying to diet, add lots of flavor, with fresh herbs, spices, etc., and that way you won't feel deprived." Denise DeCarlo, the other Grub Gal, hails from Arkansas, does most of the baking for Grub and As You Like It, and is herself a vegetarian. She has been in business with Fraser for 12 years now, and has integrated a wide variety of healthy and vegetarian options for both businesses. "I love stuffed zucchini with cottage cheese, egg, salt, pepper, nutmeg to spice it up, baked in the oven in the hollowed-out zucchini," says DeCarlo. "Parmesan cheese adds some bite to the top."

Integrating smaller changes over time is key, according to DeCarlo. A little fat can go a long way. "Some diets are like dirt," she quips. "You just can't stick with them in the long run."

"In cakes I use quite a bit of yogurt and tofu. I love Mediterranean desserts as well, which often use honey instead of sugar. I make one Mediterranean cake, poke it with holes, and then drizzle with honey and lime," says DeCarlo. It's easy for her to get sentimental about cooking. "Betty and I just wanted to serve food that makes people happy. It's Like Water for Chocolate, we put love into it." --A.M