Monday, August 31, 2009

What's for breakfast?

Healthy foodies don't skip breakfast--and don't skimp on breakfast, either. I always like a fairly hearty morning meal, but it has to be nutritious, low fat, and quick to prepare.

This is one of my longtime breakfast short-cuts: a fruit and nut mix (in metal bowl at left) that I make up in a large batch, then add a few heaping tablespoons to a bowl of oatmeal. (If you don't like oatmeal, put it in your cornflakes!) Whip this together on a Sunday afternoon or a weeknight, store in the fridge in tupperware, and all you need is the cereal and milk. The mix also freezes very well.

One or two apples, cored (but not peeled), sliced and then coarsely chopped
One container fresh blueberries or 1 1/2 - 2 cups frozen berries
1/4 cup (or more) chopped walnuts or pecans
1/4 cup dried cranberries and/or golden raisins
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Brown sugar/Splenda mix or straight Splenda, to taste (I use about 6-7 packets of Splenda for this amount--you can always add more to your bowl of oatmeal after cooking)

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl until well blended
Transfer to a plastic container with a tight lid (for storing)
To serve: add 3-4 heaping tablespoons to a portion of dry oatmeal -- I use 1/3 cup. Pour milk or soy milk just to cover the dry oatmeal. Microwave on high for 2 minutes, or a little more depending on your oven. Stir and add more milk until it's the consistency you like.

P.S. -- Play with the proportions and ingredients until you find your favorite combo of flavors. Try other spices, such as cardomom or nutmeg, or other fruits and nuts. After much experimentation, however, this is my fave.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Late Summer Supper: broiled snapper with corn and broccoli succotash

This was an easy meal to prepare, beautiful to look at and satisfying to eat!

Broiled red snapper (any white, flaky fish could substitute): Brush a one-pound filet of fish lightly with with olive oil; season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Broil in a preheated overn with skin side down for 8-10 minutes--monitor carefully and do not overcook! Remove fish to a platter than has been lined with freshly picked herbs or lettuces--I used arugula, basil and parsley. Sprinkle with chopped almonds (or other nuts) mixed with chopped parsley and drizzle with a little olive oil.

Corn and broccoli succotash (can be made in advance and reheated): Saute one diced red or green bell pepper and two minced cloves of garlic in 2 T canola or olive oil over medium-high heat until the pepper is soft, stirring constantly so the garlic does not burn. Add 2 cups of steamed broccoli florets that have been cut into bite-size pieces and kernels from 2-3 ears of fresh corn. Reduce heat to medium and stir until heated through, adding salt, pepper and fresh or dried thyme and a little water (2-3 T), if needed. Serve immediately.

Sliced heirloom tomatoes on the side.

Bon appetit!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Gordo's article in today's (8/28) Enquirer

We ate at Gordo's in Norwood last week, and here is my article in the "Under $25" column for the Cincinnati Enquirer, 8/28/09/

Even though it is a burger place, there are options for healthy foodies. My black bean burger (with roasted veggies instead of fries) and my husband's grilled salmon were both fine. The one thing I told the manager they could do better is to upgrade the wine offerings a bit.

It's a good weeknight option, and the beer list is impressive (so says my husband--beer is not my thing).

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Findlay Market Vendor: Nancy of Shady Grove Farm

Here's a great reason to head to Findlay Market on Saturday morning: that's where you'll see Nancy Ogg, who has owned a 100-acre farm in Corinth KY since 1988. She's one of the most reliable mainstays at the farmers shed at our beloved Findlay Market, where Nancy has been coming for 14 seasons. Her Shady Grove Farm produces a wide variety of vegetables and herbs, including wonderful cherry tomatoes of many colors; tiny, baby squash (not producing right now, though); hot peppers; baby eggplant in several varieties; Swiss chard; and a whole array of plentiful herbs. She probably has more than I've listed here, too.

Look for Nancy in the first farm booth on the right as you leave the main market building and head for the farmers shed.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Lunch in Northside

My friend and I had lunch today at Take the Cake on Hamilton Avenue in Northside. Over the 10+ years that the bakery has been in the area, you may have had their delectable cakes, cupcakes and/or cookies. (My BFF got her wedding cake from them in 2005, and it was a huge hit.) They've been in this Northside location since February, and I recently learned that they serve lunch.

I'll be writing in detail about their lunch offerings for the Enquirer's "Under $25" column within the next couple of weeks, so keep an eye out for that.

The photos above show:
LEFT One of the desserts of the day (a berry cobbler--my friend and I split a portion, mmm, mmm, good)
RIGHT Co-owner Melissa Mileto working on an order for a large party of diners

If your orbit includes Northside, stop in for a bite. They serve lunch until 3:00 and the bakery is open until 6:00. Since the Northside Market operates today (Weds.), you could do both at once!

P.S. -- Despite the "cake" in its name and the prominence of those cupcakes and other temptations, TTC does have options for healthy foodies!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

FAB Ferments: "Foods with Culture"

Here's something exotic (at least to me) that's healthy as all-get-out, tasty and supports a local food business (& therefore helps you be a locavore). Look for FAB Ferments products at many of our area's farmers markets. Cincinnati natives Jennifer De Marco and Jordan Aversman (pictured here at the Northside Market) make and sell lacto-fermented veggie products such as German-style sauerkraut with caraway, kimchi, spicy dill and curry krauts.
Check out their website for info about why lacto-fermented foods are so good for us. Then look for Jennifer and Jordan not only at the Northside Market but all around town--for instance, at Whole Foods in Hyde Park, Findlay Market downtown and the farmers markets in West Chester and College Hill.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Recommended cookbook

My friend, Susan Howell, recently asked me for a cookbook recommendation. She wants to expand her fairly limited repertoire in a healthy direction, with recipes that "don't have long lists of ingredients."

This is the one I suggested: The Simply Healthy Lowfat Cookbook: Over 250 Lowfat Recipes Rich in the Antioxidant Vitamins That Keep You Healthy by Kate Slate (Editor), Lisa Koenig (Photographer). It's published with the Berkeley Wellness Letter, a reliable source of nutritional info. I've made everything from main courses to desserts from this book, with good results.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sexy summer pizza -- healthy and delicious

What makes it sexy? Why, figs, of course--a fruit some people think of as an aphrodesiac.

Key ingredients for this delightful concoction (in addition to the figs): whole wheat pizza crust, a modest amount of cheese and arugula or spinach as a post-oven, last minute addition.
Topping a cooked pizza with salad greens is an idea I got in Europe a couple of summers ago--in Italian restaurants in places like Lucerne, Switzerland and Heidelburg, Germany.
In this combination of flavors, the sweetness of the figs offset the salty capers and creamy cheese, while the pesto base gave it a garlicky kick. My husband and I both thought it was a dandy pizza!

Step 1: Using a ready-made whole wheat pizza crust, spread 2 T pesto evenly over the crust. Then evenly spread these ingredients -- coarsely chopped, steamed broccoli, 2 T drained capers, 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (I used an herbed Havarti from a local source) and 5-6 thinly sliced fresh figs.
Step 2: Bake for 10 minutes in the middle of an oven that has been preheated to 450 degrees.
Step 3: In a salad bowl, toss 3 cups arugula with 1-2 T good olive oil. I also tossed in a handful of Sun Gold cherry tomatoes.
Step 4: Remove pizza from the oven, mound salad atop. Let rest for a couple of minutes, then cut and serve.

This is an entire balanced meal for 2 people--we even had a slice left over.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A visit (with amazing lunch) to Chianti Classico

I wanted to share this marvelous tour of the Chianti Classico region of Italy that my husband and I were fortunate enough to take this June. In advance of our planned 10 days in and near Florence, I searched online for a way we could see some of the wineries between Florence and Siena, the most famous of which is the Chianti Classico area.

After checking out a couple of options, we ended up with Chianti Tours[linked to], a full-day excursion via minibus from Florence into the lovely wine country just south of the city. Our tour guide, Angie, was a thirty-something resident of the area with an encylclopedic knowledge of its charms and very good English. A stroke of luck: even though we signed up for a "shared tour"--at 110 euros per person, half the price of a "private tour"--we were her only customers that day and got a private tour anyhow!

We have visited many different wine areas, mostly in France, California and Oregon, but the way this day turned out put it at the very top of our wine-country experiences.

Angie took us first to a medium-sized wine estate called Montecchio, where we were the only tourists--just us and the employees. After a tour of the cellars and vineyards, we settled in their impressive tasting room where they provided generous pours of all their wines, including four of the pricier Super Tuscans. [Photo at left is in my husband with our hostess in the tasting room] The estate also makes olive oil and honey, which they set out as well along with some good Italian bread. It was glorious!

After a beautiful drive through the countryside, we ended up at the tiny, family run farm and winery called Vallone di Cecione, producer of a mere 700 cases per year of Chianti Classico. Not only were there no other tourists here, the only folks in sight were the Cecione family. Mama Cecione had laid out a scrumptious lunch for us -- with their wines --and her son the winemaker ate with the three of us, with Angie translating when his English wasn't up to the task.

It was the simplest of fare--a bowl of fusili pasta in a light tomato sauce, bruschetta topped with tomatoes, garlic and basil from their own gardens, a plate of local salamis and cheeses, fresh green salad--but the setting and purity of the food made it one of the best meals we had in Italy (which is saying a lot). [Photo of table shows the lunch they served.]

After that delicious interlude, Angie drove us to the town of Greve, a tiny burg in the heart of Chianti Classico, where we strolled the town square and shopped for hand-made linens and a few local food items. She drove us back to Florence with our purchases, which included wine and olive oil from Montecchio--we had the Cecione ship a few bottles of theirs to us.

All in all, it was an unparalleled day of wine, food, bonhomie and scenery. If you get a chance to go to Florence, be sure to add this to your itinerary!

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Yes, it's that time of the summer when you actually can get fresh figs in Cincinnati. I don't know of any local sources--the ones I see all come from California--but I'll be looking at Findlay Market this weekend and hoping to see the fruits of some intrepid area farmer's fig tree.
However, I scored my first carton of these precious gems at Trader Joe's this week.
[Thursday, I saw three varieties of fresh figs at Whole Foods, on sale for $2.99 a carton]
I used about half of the TJ carton to make the salad pictured above.

Recipe: Fig and Chicken Salad on Arugula (Serves 2 as an entree, 4 as a side)
1 skinless, boneless chicken breast (preferably free range, organic)
Chicken stock or broth
1 large garlic clove
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 cups arugula (or other mixed greens)
1 cup cooked green beans, and an equivalent amount of any other leftover cooked veggies on hand
6-8 fresh figs
Salad dressing of your choice
Shredded mozzarella cheese or crumbled goat cheese (optional)
1. Place the chicken in a saucepan and cover with chicken stock, or a mixture of chicken stock and water. Add garlic, bay leaf and seasonings. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and cook gently until chicken is just done (about 5 minutes, depending on thickness of breast).
2. Remove pan from heat, take chicken out and let rest on a cutting board. Save broth for another use, or discard (if saving, put through a strainer and discard garlic and bay leaf).
3. When chicken is slight cool, slice into bite-size pieces and cover with some of the salad dressing you are using.
4. (Optional) Spray a shallow frying pan with cooking spray, add figs and cook on medium heat, turning often, to heat and slightly cook (caramelize) the figs.
5. Cut the figs (warm or uncooked) into quarters.
6. In a large mixing bowl, toss together arugula, figs, chicken in its salad dressing, vegetables and figs.
7. Drizzle more salad dressing over all, season with salt and pepper, if desired.
8. Divide into large, shallow bowls and serve. Pass cheese at the table.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Salad special at Vineyard Cafe & Wine Bar -- including local farm ingredients

I had this salad yesterday for lunch at Vineyard: heirloom tomatoes, mixed greens, pickled rhubarb slices, goat cheese and sautéed shrimp with a light vinaigrette. The tomatoes and rhubarb came from organic farmers at Sunday's Hyde Park market. It was yummy.

And if you go to Vineyard today (Weds.), it's half-price wine day! Bottles AND GLASSES are all half the listed price. They have an excellent, lengthy list and you're sure to find something pleasant.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Turkey cutlets with herbed mushroom sauce

You can't find meat with lower fat content than turkey breast. [For example, 3.5 ounces of beef has between 10 and 18 grams of fat, skinless chicken breast 3-4 grams, and skinless turkey breast 1 gram or less.] I buy breast cutlets, which usually come four to a package, at the supermarket. Each cutlet is only about 4 ounces, but if you're having plenty of veggie and/or starchy sides, one cutlet per person will do.

Here's the recipe I made last night. Turkey cutlets cook very quickly, so be sure not to overcook them so they'll stay tender. I just brown them quickly (60-90 seconds per side), remove to a plate, then add the cutlets and their juices to the sauce when it's complete. You only need to wait another minute or two for the cutlets to be reheated and the dish is ready to eat.

Serve with a side of sauteed veggies or a green salad and starch of your choice. I skipped the starch last night--trying to drop a couple of vacation pounds--but my bigger-appetite husband added a few slices of harvest grain bread with olive oil to his dinner.

If you're drinking wine with dinner, you'll have a lot of good options to go with this meal. An unoaked chardonnay would be nice (we had a lovely one in Boston and I found it recently at the Hyde Park Kroger--Ghost Pines 2006, Sonoma County), as would a French rose or even a California or Oregon pinot noir.

Turkey cutlets with Herbed Mushroom Sauce
(Serves 2-3)

Four 4-ounce turkey cutlets, patted dry, salt and pepper on both sides
2 T canola oil
Cooking spray
8 ounces “baby bella” or other mushrooms, sliced or coarsely chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup dry red wine
¼ cup chicken or vegetable broth
¼ cup chopped fresh herbs (whatever you have on hand)
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat canola oil over medium-high heat in a large, nonstick frying pan. Brown seasoned turkey cutlets on each side—about one minute to 90 seconds per side. Remove to a plate and cover loosely with foil.
Reduce heat to medium. Add garlic and cook for one minute, then add mushrooms. Stir-fry until the mushrooms start to brown, about 3 minutes. Add wine and stock and stir to heat through. Add herbs (I used parsley and basil) and return turkey cutlets to the pan. Cover and cook until the turkey has been heated, about 3 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

"The Myth about Exercise" and weight -- new info

Time Magazine had a very interesting cover story last week (dated 8/17/09) about new research questioning whether exercise actually helps with weight loss or even weight control. We've all thought that burning calories at the gym or playing sports as well as doing strength training will help us drop pounds--or at least not gain weight as we age.

The Time article blows some holes in those notions. Researchers are finding that when we do blast some calories through exercise, we end up hungrier than if we hadn't exercised, and can easily eat as much (or more) after our exertion than we would have otherwise. Moreover, other researchers have documented that people who exercise vigorously will go home and slug out, versus those who divide their activity levels more evenly across the day and evening.

My summary doesn't do justice to the article, so I encourage you to seek it out, if interested. The author does stress that exercise is still important for many other benefits besides weight control--one of the main reasons I am an exercise fanatic is that it helps me sleep better, for instance. But it is rather eye-opening and sobering to think that exercise and weight may not be all that closely tied.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Seafood on the New England coast

We're just back from Boston and Cape Cod, where we had wonderful seafood--such a healthy choice! Our favorite find is called the Summer Shack, which has two locations in Boston (Back Bay and Cambridge). The Back Bay one was right across the street from our hotel, the Sheraton. We ended up eating there 4 times, mostly for lunch, in our 6 days in Beantown.

I also had some terrific swordfish, a fish that I never buy to cook at home. Apparently, swordfish is one of those large sea creatures that accumulates a lot of mercury, compared to smaller fish. And I've also heard that swordfish stocks have been decimated by significant over-fishing. So this was a guilty pleasure--but a pleasure nonetheless.

Above, left, is a simple grilled swordfish with veggie side dishes from Summer Shack. At right is a preparation atop rice with a fresh mango salsa from a restaurant on Martha's Vineyard.

One more seafood dish worth raving over: at a Back Bay resto called Sonsie, they made the most delicious grilled jumbo shrimp salad. The plate consisted of thin slices of canteloupe spread across it, with 4 large shrimp wrapped in prosciutto and grilled; also on the plate, a pile of baby arugula. All this was drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette. I liked it so much one day at lunch, when we returned next night for dinner, I had to have it again! The photo I took was out of focus, or I'd show you that, too.
P.S. -- Despite those healthy seafood choices, I still gained a couple of pounds on the trip. Could be the lack of any real workouts. Or maybe the wine with lunch AND dinner almost every day. Or maybe the panna cotta and other desserts not usually on our menus. Oh well, back to being "good" on a more regular basis.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Healthy eating on the road -- HARD!

I am still in Boston, but will be back doing my regular blogging this weekend, along with photos from some of my best finds in this city and on Cape Cod.

But I must confess that the one healthy-foodie thing I have still to master is how not to gain weight while on the road. Inevitably, I will return with a few extra pounds. I'll get rid of them, but as the years go on it gets harder to do so. When traveling I don't exercise anything like as much as I do at home, and I eat way too many foods that we just don't have around the house.\

Today (8/13) USA Today has an article about this very thing: how to not blow your diet while traveling. See the Life section. My problem with the writer's approach, however, is that she only lists the healthier choices at fast-food restaurants. Sorry if it is snobby, but we just don't eat at those places.

If anyone has ideas for how to conquer this beast, please post!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

On the road again

We are eating (but not cooking) in Boston this week/weekend, heading to Cape Cod on Sunday for a few days after that.

Seafood, especially lobster. and good Italian restos are the highlights foodie-wise here.

But tonight we have tickets to see McCartney at Fenway Park, so food becomes secondary.....

Back ASAP!


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Lunch at Tink's on Telford

On this rainy Tuesday, I took my mom to Tink's (3410 Telford Street) in our neighbordhood, Clifton.

She had the crabcake (L) with soy-glazed lo mein, wilted greems, sweet Thai chili sauce and roasted sesame ($10). We've always liked the crabcakes at both Tink's and Vineyard--they have a crispy exterior and creamy insides.

I tried the grilled eggplant (R) with herbed risotto, tomato reduction and whipped ricotta cream ($10). That last ingredient took the dish out of the realm of "light and healthy," whici is how I usually like to eat. But it wasn't too far over the line!

We are grateful for Tink's, the one upscale restaurant in the Ludlow-Gaslight district.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Dinner at NuVo

Saturday night we met friends at NuVo (527 York St., Newport KY) for a highly anticipated meal by a team of committed locavores. Chef Michael Peterson told me that approximately 85% of the restaurant's produce comes from local sources. That includes the only red meat on the summer menu, bison (a.k.a. buffalo) from Vista Grand Ranch in New Richmond, OH.

Our meal was outstanding, beginning with excellent, warm yeast rolls topped with a little melted butter. For appetizers, two of us had the farmers market salad (pictured above, left) with a garlicky pesto vinaigrette, one ordered house-made minestrone soup, and I had hazelnut encrusted scallops with puree of yellow squash and banana with brown butter.

The entrees were superb: homemade fettuccini with lobster, pancetta, tomatoes, and lemon corn emulsion ($23); roasted pork tenderloin with broccoli smashed potatoes and blackberry balsamic sauce ($22) and seared polenta cakes with farmer's cassoulet, spinach, and peach chutney ($17). But the best of all (IMHO) was my husband's Sookhoo seared red snapper with vanilla and orange glazed vegetables and annatto seed spiced rice ($20, pitctured at right), a marvelous marriage of flavors that had him saying "oooh, yum" after almost every bite.

After all that, we had to try the desserts. My husband and I split the strawberry-rhubarb cobbler with dark chocolate gelato while our friends had a slice of cream-cheese tarts with berries and key lime creme brulee. I found the desserts somewhat less impressive than the first two courses, but maybe I was already too satiated to quite appreciate them.

Nonetheless, when our server (Megan--Chef Michael's fiancee) delivered a post-dessert treat of chocolate-caramel truffles, I found room for one!

All in all, my favorite bites of the meal were the yeast rolls at the start and the delectable chocolate truffles at the end. Later, Chef Michael told me his younger sister made both.

The wine list is very short and tends toward New World choices (Australia, Chile, California), many of which I was not familiar with.

Bottom line on NuVo: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. See their website at Bon appetit!