Standard banquet dishes presented with less protein and more vegetables- I call it Club Fit Cuisine- Photos by Madeline Beyer
Standard banquet dishes presented with less protein and more vegetables- I call it Club Fit Cuisine- Photos by Madeline Beyer

We all search for healthier and better ways to eat. In my experience as a chef, clients that host banquets and catering parties do not want to purchase strict healthy food options when booking their functions. Perhaps 80% of people like to eat what they are accustomed to regardless of the nutritional value and calorie count. However, as a chef of a large club and catering operation I feel that is my duty to try prepare food that is more healthy and that will sell and appease the clients and their guests. This leads me to an 80/20 rule, which I call Club Fit Cuisine. Twenty percent better nutrition with more vegetables and less meat for 80% of the clients who order them, which will hopefully improve their health. The same menu planning strategy can be done at home to provide a better overall diet.

Chicken Florentine served with parsnip Yukon gold mashed Potatoes, Green Beans with Shallots and Braised Red Cabbage.
Chicken Florentine served with Parsnip Yukon gold mashed Potatoes, Green Beans with Shallots and Braised Red Cabbage.

Take for example this classic, Chicken Florentine which in the Club Fit presentation adds parsnips to the mashed potatoes, cuts the chicken to a 4 0z portion and adds a colorful addition to the plate with braised red cabbage. Cutting mashed potatoes by steaming or roasting vegetables such as cauliflower or parsnips then mashing them with the potatoes adds more vegetables to a popular side.  This cuts calories and improves the overall vitamin content. Additionally, adding the colorful red cabbage makes it more eye appealing and increases the antioxidant value of the dish.  Remember the healthy food saying, Eat the rainbow of colors with vegetables to improve vitamin and antioxidants in our diets.

Roast Pork Loin with mashed Sweet Potatoes, Asparagus,  Charred Brussels Sprouts, and Baby Carrots served on Spaghetti Squash with Caramelized Apples.
Roast Pork Loin with mashed Sweet Potatoes, Asparagus, Charred Brussels Sprouts, and Baby Carrots served on Spaghetti Squash with Caramelized Apples.

This Club Fit dish is a standard roasted Pork Loin with a Calvados Apple Brandy Sauce. It is presented with mashed Sweet Potatoes sweetened with Agave Nectar along with an often underutilized shredded Spaghetti Squash as base along with the medley of vegetables. This colorful presentation provides a healthy variety of vegetables. Sweet potatoes are much better then white potatoes because they do not spike up the glycemic index as much as the white starch does. Additionally, replacing the usual brown sugar with Agave Nectar is better for people prone to diabetes.

Roasted Strip Loin with Green Beans with Hazel Nuts, Trio of Wild Mushrooms and Thin Sliced Potatoes.
Roasted Strip Loin with Green Beans with Hazel Nuts, Trio of Wild Mushrooms and Thin Sliced Potatoes.

In this version of the popular sliced roasted Strip Loin of Beef the style of plating along with the ragout of  Wild Mushrooms, Green Beans with Hazelnuts and Thin Sliced Idaho Potatoes lends itself to a full plate with a smaller portion of well trimmed lean Beef. Nutritionists recommend a protein portion to be the size of a deck of cards.  This portion of beef, 5 ounces,  comes closer to that recommendation when compared to a normal 10 ounces steak that most chefs serve in this dish. In the new food guidelines another representation of healthy eating is to divide a plate into quarters with three of those quarters being filled with vegetables and complex carbohydrates and the fourth quarter reserved for meat. This portion of meat with vegetables and starch meets that goal.

Chicken Milano is a made with an Egg battered pan fried Chicken Breast topped with a thin slice of Prosciutto Ham and Provolone Cheese prior to baking.
Chicken Milano is a made with an Egg battered pan fried Chicken Breast topped with Pesto Sauce and a thin slice of Prosciutto Ham and Provolone Cheese prior to baking.
The Italian classic Chicken Piccata served with Orzo Pasta and medley of Vegetables made healthier with a light Chicken Stock based Sauce finished with a small amount of butter and lemon instead of the Lemon Butter Sauce normally served with the dish.
The Italian classic Chicken Piccata served with Orzo Pasta and medley of Vegetables made healthier with a light Chicken Stock based Sauce finished with a small amount of butter and lemon instead of the Lemon Butter Sauce normally served with the dish.

Two Chicken Breast dishes using my Club Fit Cuisine 80/20 principle are Chicken Milano and the Classic Chicken Piccata. The first dish, Chicken Milano is made with a 4 ounces of chicken breast that has been pounded out thinly with a meat hammer and then dredged in seasoned flour and beaten Eggs, just like Piccata and then pan fried. The par cooked chicken is then lightly brushed with pesto sauce and topped with a paper thin slice of Prosciutto Ham and Provolone Cheese. This dish that I created and named Chicken Milano is then served on a light tomato coulis (pureed roasted Tomato Sauce) served with O’Brien Potatoes made with skin on Red Potatoes, Pearl Onions and Red Bell Peppers presented with a roasted Tomato filled with blanched Vegetables, tossed with Garlic Herb Olive Oil prior to roasting.

The Popular Italian Classic, Chicken Piccata, is served on a bed of Orzo Pasta tossed with flash sautéed heirloom Cherry and Yellow Tomatoes next to a bed of quick blanched Zucchini topped with Asparagus and Baby Carrots. This provides a good portion of vegetables with the Chicken Piccata. To improve the sauce while making it lower in fat I use a rich Chicken Stock thickened with a little Arrowroot and finished with a small amount of Butter and Lemon juice  before being garnished with the standard capers and chopped Parsley.

Both of these Chicken Breast dishes use less protein then are normally served and are utilizing my 80/20 rule by making 20% improvement with more vegetables, lighter sauces and less protein, which will appeal to 80% or more of the typical diners.

Hopefully these descriptions and my Club Fit Cuisine philosophy using this rendition of the 80/20 rule will help you to create better food with more healthful results in either your home cooking or professional kitchens.