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ANDREA YEAGER: Fresh and flavorful trends for 2016

Farmers markets that are selling locally grown produce and foods along the Gulf Coast from Texas to Florida are on trend.

One of the top food trends for 2016 for restaurants is the local sourcing of produce, meat and seafood, according to the National Restaurant Association. What does this mean? Buying from area farmers, meat producers and seafood purveyors. It means giving the customers the best possible foods. It is more of the farm-to-table trend that has been growing over the last 10 years.

The restaurant association focuses on the hottest culinary trends each year. The group surveys some 1,600 professional chefs, who are members of the American Culinary Federation.

Real Foods markets in Ocean Springs, Gulfport, Florence Gardens and Bay St. Louis began meeting the needs of Coastians who wanted locally grown vegetables without pesticides and local meats, seafood and dairy that are native to the area.

Gulfport's Island View Casino chefs joined this movement by doing demonstrations at the farmers markets and doing restaurant specials featuring what Coast foods were fresh or in season at the market. Other chefs also shop the markets, too, in addition to area farms.

Supermarket newspaper advertisements and signs in the stores state where the produce is from. The seafood markets in the stores and Coast seafood markets also share where the products are from, featuring Gulf Coast seafood.

This benefits readers, who say they want to know where and how the products are farmed. Residents and diners alike want to know as much about what they are eating as possible.

Coast or area farmers are in good position to meet this trend's demand.

At the top of the association's list is locally sourced meat and seafood. Locally grown produce and hyper-local sourcing came in at No. 3 and 4, respectively. Also making the trend list were environmental sustainability and sustainable seafood, which is continuing to gain momentum, as food recovery and food waste.

Another plus for parents and grandparents is the restaurant industry's interest in healthful kids' meals. This ranked No. 7.

The other Top 20 trends include natural ingredients/minimally processed food, new cuts of meat, house-made/artisan ice cream, ethnic condiments and spices, authentic ethnic cuisine, farm/estate branded items, artisan butchery, ancient grains, ethnic-inspired breakfast items, fresh/house-made

sausage, house-made/artisan pickles and street food/food trucks.

Longtime Coastians may remember when Chef Armand Jonte made the best in-house ice creams at his shuttered Armand's. Rob Stinson's lemon ice at Salute also was memorable.

Spice is nice, and in the United States, folks like to turn up the heat, moving from mere sriracha sauce to ghost peppers and more intense heat. Habaneros are mild compared to these peppers.

Interest in African flavors has increased some 20 percent since 2015; authentic ethnic cuisine, 14 percent; and Middle Eastern flavors, ethnic condiments and spices and house-made/artisan soft drinks, 11 percent.

The trendy kale of 2015 gets bumped by seaweed in 2016. Interest in kale is down 10 percent. Another biggie, gluten-free foods, dropped 8 percent, according tothe association. Also trending downward are underutilized fish, 11 percent; quinoa (another hot item in 2015), 8 percent; coconut water, 7 percent; Asian noodles and low-calorie entrees, 6 percent; and on-stick-items in kids' meals, 5 percent. Check out the association's website for the complete list.

Like the restaurant group, the National Grocers Association says that consumers want new food experiences, especially those associated with fresh convenience and customization.

For dining and eating at home, 2016 promises to be all about freshness and flavor.

Lighten up

Even though low-calorie meals have dropped as far as trends go, a majority of us need to eat healthier. Friends with whom I was talking about getting "on the straight and narrow" food-wise have decided they need to eat better, too, not such high-caloric or high-fat dishes. One needs to keep his sugar levels down; the other just wants to lose weight.

After checking out the trends for 2016, I thought I might share a couple of healthier recipes. One is a Weight Watchers recipe that I tried last week that came in a newsletter from food.com. My daughter loved it and couldn't believe it was low fat.

This one fit the increased love of spice and flavor. It is 6 points on Weight Watchers' previous PointsPlus plan (check for points value on the new SmartPoints plan) and serves 4. I made it to serve 2-1/4 (Elyssa, Lilly and me). It is a quick fix and is ready in 45 minutes from start to finish.

Another healthy lunch idea, which is on target with the upsurge in Middle Eastern foods, is humus and vegetable sticks or pita bread. I love to eat this for lunch.

Former TV personality, actress and singer Barbara Salloum of Gulfport makes a great homemade hummus. The recipe is in her cookbook "How To Be a Star (in your kitchen)."

Readers, if you have lighter recipes to share, please send them to me. All are welcomed.

Note: I served this with guacamole and corn on the cob.

WEIGHT WATCHERS MONTEREY CHICKEN

4 (5-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breasts

1/2 cup barbecue sauce

1/4 cup shelf-stable real bacon bits

1/2 cup 2 percent Colby-Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

1 (14-ounce) can tomatoes with diced green chilies, drained

Sliced green onions

Southwest or taco seasoning

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Pound out the chicken breasts to flatten. Season each with a little Southwest or taco seasoning.

Cook the chicken in a skillet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray over medium-low heat until no longer pink.

Place each breast onto a baking sheet and top each breast with 2 tablespoons of barbecue sauce, 2 tablespoons of cheese, 2 tablespoons tomatoes and green chilies, a sprinkling of green onions and 1 tablespoon of bacon bits.

Place in a baking pan sprayed with the non-stick spray, place into oven and bake until cheese has melted (about 5 minutes).

-- Recipe from Weight Watchers

HUMMUS

2 cans chickpeas, drained (save liquid)

Put into a blender with 2 buttons garlic and enough drained liquid to blend. Place blended chickpeas into a bowl and mix in 3 tablespoons tahini sauce (don't forget to be sure tahini sauce is well mixed), juice of 2 lemons and 1 teaspoon salt. Mix well and garnish with parsley.

-- Recipe by Barbara Salloum from "How To Be a Star (in your kitchen)"

Still looking

A friend of Pam Taylor of Gulfport is looking for a sweet potato bread pudding recipe similar to the one served at Lookout Steakhouse in Gulfport.

Brenda Roberts of Ocean Springs loves fruit cake and would like a low-sugar recipe for fruit cake. She also wants and low-sugar, low-sodium gumbo recipe that does not have fish in it. Readers, if you have these recipes, send them to me.

Andrea Yeager, can be reached at ayeager51@cableone.net and at Cook's Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567.

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