A few weeks ago I flipped to the Food Network as I was lounging in a hotel room. The host, a pretty brunette, was cooking whole-wheat pancakes, a healthy-looking wrap sandwich, and asparagus wrapped in smoked turkey. I double-checked my hotel viewing guide; was this really the Food Network? There were no spastic arm movements, no cutesy sayings, and no tablescapes. No gluttonous amounts of butter and mayo, and no cocktails that looked like something dreamed up by a nefarious frat boy1.
When I got home I confirmed that it was indeed the Food Network, and the show was Healthy Appetite with Ellie Krieger. Since then I've watched a few more episodes and I am happy to report that Ellie is a fine addition to the Food Network family. My biggest beef with Sandra Lee and Rachael Ray is that I don't think they don't enjoy cooking. Now, I don't enjoy it every day (hence the occasional leftover day), but I have no problem with spending an hour or two in the kitchen every now and then if it means that I'll have a really fantastic meal at the end of it. This is one of the reasons I love Giada and Ina: they are patient with their food and won't cut corners to shave a few minutes off of their preparation time. Ellie seems like this too: she's not obsessed with the clock and how to make cooking seem easy.
Ellie Krieger has her masters in nutrition from Columbia, and unlike that other Food Network nutritionist, she looks healthy and seems knowledgable about nutritional information. I learned that cherry tomatoes are a good source of vitamin C, and that by rinsing off beans, you reduce the sodium by 40%. Imagine that: a cook who is informed about what she puts into her body, not just if she can cook the whole thing in less than 30 minutes. Her book, Small Changes, Big Results has some excellent reviews and sounds like it espouses the same philosophy as her show.
I'm loving her show, but it's not perfect. A cook's knife ability is one of the things that separates the pros from the rest of us, and right now Ellie's knife work is decidedly amateur. Sometimes Ellie seems nervous and not very comfortable in front of the camera, but after seeing video of Giada's early years, I'm convinced anyone can become a star in front of the camera with enough practice. Finally, some of Ellie's portions are, shall we say, meager. As an American, I'm used to gigantic portions and spending time in Europe only solidified this. However, I have been fooled a few times now by thinking that she was making a side dish and it turned out to be the main course. A few stalks of asparagus does not a dinner make. That's pretty easy to adjust, though, if you realize that her portions run on the small size.
Kudos to the Food Network for adding an informative, non-gimmicky show to the lineup. I guess something has to balance out yet another "food on the road" show.
1 There was one cocktail, but it was rather refined.
2 One more thing, how hot is her husband? According to this bio, his name is Thom and he's an Outward Bound expedition leader.