Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Great combo: crab and asparagus

It's asparagus season! While you can get the tasty spears any time of year -- as is true now of most fruits and veggies -- spring is when they are best. Local growers around here are bringing their asparagus to markets, and I find it easy to over-buy and then have to come up with ideas for serving my husband's favorite vegetable.
Last night we just roasted a bunch of it in the oven with olive oil and seasonings.

One flavor combination that I think works really well is to mix crabmeat with slices of asparagus. For company this weekend, I'm planning to make a crab and asparagus salad (recipe and photo to come), but here's another way to combine the two ingredients, courtesy of Eating Well magazine.

Recipe: Crab Salad Melts
Makes 4 servings


  • 3 asparagus spears, or 12 snow peas, trimmed and thinly sliced (about 1/3 cup)
  • 8 ounces crabmeat, any shells or cartilage removed
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 scallion, finely chopped
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1/4 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • 2-5 dashes hot sauce
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 4 whole-wheat English muffins, split and toasted
  • 1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
  1. Place rack in the upper third of the oven; preheat broiler.
  2. Place asparagus (or snow peas) in a medium microwave-safe bowl with 1 teaspoon water. Cover and microwave until tender, about 30 seconds. Add crab, celery, bell pepper, scallion, lemon juice, mayonnaise, Old Bay seasoning, hot sauce to taste and pepper; stir to combine.
  3. Place English muffin halves, cut-side up, on a large baking sheet. Spread a generous 1/4 cup of the crab salad on each muffin half and sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon cheese. Broil until the cheese is melted, 3 to 6 minutes.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Fine dining at Boca

On Saturday I joined two friends at one of the city's very best dining destinations: Boca, the high-end, mostly Italian restaurant in Oakley, an in-town Cincinnati neighborhood.

It had been at least six months since I'd eaten there, and it was a first for both of my friends.
We had a swell time, from our cocktails (mine, at right) and sparkling wine, to the 20-year tawny port and late-harvest grenache that accompanied our desserts.
At Boca, dessert is included in the fixed price menu: either two courses plus dessert, or three plus dessert.
For first courses, Beth and I chose one of the pastas (clams with linguine for me, pictured) and Thea had a beautifully done asparagus appetizer with a poached egg (the photo did not come out well, alas).
We each went with a fish entree; my monkfish wrapped in prosciutto on potatoes Anna and spinach is in the photo. Thea and Beth both had branzino (also called Mediterranean sea bass). Both preparations were lovely, and scrumptious.

For dessert:
creme brulee and chocolate pots de creme.
One of my long-running complaints about Boca -- well, okay, my only complaint really -- was that they had the same three desserts literally since they opened at the Oakley location, years and years ago. So I was happy to see some changes in that department. Also, there was an off the menu dessert, a berry cake, that our waiter brought us a slice of to share. It was killer.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Special Easter Photos

Flowers..........Easter Baskets for the family brunch...........and me in my Easter bonnet.

I hope everyone's day was as lovely.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Pork Cutlets: Stir-Fried with colorful veggies and accented with Asian flavors

Here's a recipe that is quick and easy, and very tasty thanks to the ginger and sesame oil. I love this with shiitake mushrooms, but any type of mushroom will do.
I included a hard-to-find ingredient for fun: kumquats, sliced in half lengthwise. They add a sweet-sour citrus zing that is quite unusual. If you can't get kumquats, the dish is good without!

Recipe: Pork Cutlets with Peppers, Leeks and Mushrooms

Serves 4


4 thinly sliced, very lean, boneless pork cutlets (trim off any visible fat)

Salt and pepper

2 T canola oil

1 leek, trimmed and thinly sliced

1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced

1 cup sliced kumquats (optional)

1 large clove garlic, minced

2 cups sliced mushrooms, preferably shiitake

1-2 T minced fresh ginger

¾ cup chicken or vegetable broth

1 teaspoon sesame oil

Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)


Heat canola oil in a large, deep-sided frying pan over medium-high heat

Sprinkle pork cutlets with salt and pepper and add to pan

Brown on one side, about 3 minutes, turn and brown the other side of the cutlet, then remove pork to a plate, cover with foil and keep warm.

Reduce heat to medium. Add leeks, pepper and kumquats (if using) and stir-fry until vegetables start to tenderize, about 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and mushrooms, stirring well, and stir-fry until mushrooms begin to give up their liquid, about 3 minutes.

Stir in ginger and vegetable broth; cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 2 minutes, then return pork to the pan and cover again. When pork has heated, stir in sesame oil and sprinkle with the seeds, if using.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Morels, fiddlehead ferns and an A+ vegan dish

One night this week I had no plans for dinner and no time to go to the grocery store. We've all been there, right?
Luckily, I had a couple of special springtime veggies in the fridge from a visit to the market last weekend: a small amount of morel mushrooms and an equally tiny portion of fiddlehead ferns.
With some garlic, a leek, a handful of fresh spinach and another kind of mushroom that were on hand, I was able to whip up a vegan dish (served over brown rice, which I keep in the microwavable bags, frozen) that my husband was crazy about.
The one little "cheat" that made it extra delicious was that I added about 1 T of pure unsalted butter at the very end of the cooking process.
The rest of the ingredients:
Salt and pepper
2 T of capers, drained
1 T toasted pine nuts

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

50 Best Restaurants in the World: Which U.S. Restaurants Made It?

The annual San Pellegrino "World's 50 Best Restaurants" list was announced Monday, to much fanfare. Number one for the second year in a row was Noma, in Copenhagen, Denmark.
How did U.S. restaurants fare?
Two American fine-dining meccas made the top ten, the renowned (and you-can't-get-a-table) Alinea in Chicago (#6) and Thomas Keller's New York Per Se (#10 -- first time on the list).

Here's the Top 10:
1. Noma -- Denmark
2. El Celler de Can Roca -- Spain
3. Mugaritz -- Spain
4. Osteria Francescana -- Italy (Modena)
5. The Fat Duck -- England
6. Alinea -- Chicago/U.S.
7. D.O.M. -- Brazil
8. Arzak -- Spain
9. Le Chateubriand -- France
10. Per Se -- New York/U.S.

Only three other U.S. restaurants made the top 50 list: Daniel (#11), 11 Madison Park (#24) and Momofuku (#40).

We go to Chicago at least once a year and have tried a number of the city's best restaurants, but we haven't yet attempted to get a table at Alinea--we hear it's virtually impossible. But one day....
The chef (pictured above) is known for artful food creations, including a couple of dishes shown here.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Dining delights of the weekend

I had a couple of very good dining experiences over the weekend.
On Friday, I met my friend Melissa and her 10-year-old daughter at Virgil's in Bellevue, KY, for lunch. Top photo shows my "pizzette" (okay, but cooked almost to a crisp) and the excellent shaved fennel salad with orange and apple slices and pistachios.
Saturday night we went back to Honey (Northside) after a few months absence. My last two experiences there hadn't been good, but Cincinnati Magazine recently named it one of the top five restaurants in the area.
They were firing on all cylinders this weekend! My arugula salad with raspberries and almonds was a special, very tasty, but my friend's spinach salad with garbanzo beans and olives may have been even better.
For an entree, I went with their meatloaf, quite satisfying atop Swiss chard and chunky mashed potatoes. The Creole sauce (with Tazo ham, yum) was only slightly spicy and matched beautifully with a Spanish rioja wine. My friend's eggplant appetizer, also pictured, was a pretty and unusual preparation, although she said it was a bit overcooked.
For dessert, my friends split a killer brownie with praline layer in the middle, and I topped my meal off with a delicious brandy Alexander (made with cognac and Godiva chocolate liqueur). That drink was my favorite course!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Best grocery stores for sustainable seafood

From Smart Planet, news about where to shop for seafood that we can feel good about eating.

It’s getting warmer, which means more of us will be dragging out the barbecue and more of us will be visiting the seafood counter in our local grocery store for some fresh fish steaks. Greenpeace wants to give you pause before you fire up the grill. The environmental advocacy group has updated its “Carting Away the Oceans” report and Supermarket Seafood Sustainability Scorecard, with Safeway (including Von’s) claiming the top spot.

Target, which was first last year, slipped an itsy bit into second place in a tie with the Wegmans organization. Rounding out the top five are Whole Foods and Ahold (Stop & Shop, Giant). The top five companies actually were the same last year, just in a slightly different order.

The good news, according to Greenpeace, is that most of the major supermarket chains become more vigilant — lest they risk the ire of consumers. But there are still five organizations that Greenpeace feels have been blase in their attention to the seafood issue. Those companies are Giant Eagle, Publix, Supervalue, Winn-Dixie and Meijer. In reality, none of the companies ranked on the list get a really good score. Safeway managed 64.61 out of a possible 100; Target and Wegmens are RIGHT behind with 63.74 out of 100.

Check your supermarket’s score!

Go here to read the whole article.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Modernized "Classic" Cocktails -- or Mocktails!

With warmer weather upon us -- hooray, hooray, hooray -- it's time to lighten up our before-dinner drinks and think about such things as sangria, daiquiris and mojitos.
Check out this set of recipes for such treats as Thai-basil sangria, lemongrass margarita, rhubarb daiquiri, limoncello Collins and the one pictured: strawberry-lemon mojito (recipe below).
If you don't want the alcohol, several of these can be made as "virgin" drinks. We're having a dinner party in a couple of weeks with several non-drinkers in the crowd. I might try that strawberry-lemon mojito without the rum for those who would prefer it.

Recipe: Strawberry-Lemon Mojito
(Makes 4 drinks)


  1. 8 lemon wedges
  2. 24 mint leaves, plus 4 mint sprigs, for garnish (optional)
  3. 4 strawberries, plus 2 halved strawberries, for garnish
  4. Ice cubes, plus crushed ice
  5. 8 ounces gold or aged rum**
  6. 3 ounces fresh lemon juice
  7. 2 ounces sugar syrup or agave nectar
In a cocktail shaker, muddle the lemon wedges with the whole strawberries and mint leaves. Add ice and the rum, lemon juice and sugar syrup; shake well. Strain into crushed ice–filled highball glasses. Garnish with the berry halves and mint sprigs.

** May be prepared without the rum.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

10 Value Wines -- American Reds

From Ray Isle of Food & Wine magazine, check out this piece highlighting an array of great wine deals, including the luscious Joseph Carr Napa Valley cab for about $20 -- not a cheap wine, but Napa cab of this quality at that price is pretty rare.
Also highlighted: Castle Rock's Oregon pinot noir at just $13 -- another unheard of bargain for decent pinot; and several merlots in the $15-$20 range that will amaze you.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Must-watch Foodie TV (tonight!)

Season 2 of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution starts tonight at 8 PM (EDT) on ABC-TV.
This time, Jamie goes to Los Angeles to try to teach kids and parents about healthy eating. Last season, it was Huntington, WV, where he had a fair amount of success. Apparently L.A. gives him more trouble.
I think it's don't-miss television for the healthy foodie.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Foods that help you sleep

We all know that staying active (aka exercising) and eating right are major components in maintaining good health. Getting enough restful sleep is just about as important, too. Here's an interesting piece from an excellent food blog called The Daily Meal ( According to the article "9 Foods to Help You Sleep," the brain needs two things to produce enough serotonin to send you happily to la-la land. They are the amino acid tryptophan, and some sort of carbohydrates. The nutritionist writing the article suggests that a snack that consists of some of these foods about an hour before bed is great for getting your shut-eye.

1. Oatmeal with Milk or Walnuts

A good snack to have before bedtime because it combines carbohydrates with protein.

2. Yogurt

A great food because it’s about half carbohydrates and half protein.

3. Hummus

Eat this with some pita for a perfect mix of both protein (from the chickpeas) and carbohydrates.

4. Warm Milk

Has tryptophan, and there's also the soothing aspect of sipping a warm beverage.

5. Bananas

Contain tryptophan, melatonin, seratonin, and magnesium, which can act as a muscle relaxant. Try them with some peanut butter and toast.

6. Turkey

While it’s a well-known source of tryptophan, almost any type of poultry has similar amounts of it. Try eating half a turkey or chicken sandwich.

7. Potatoes

Contain both tryptophan and carbohydrates, so eating a few as a small snack before bed could help you sleep.

8. Almonds

Have both tryptophan and magnesium, so you could also try adding these to your oatmeal.

9. Tart Cherries

Contain melatonin, which helps regulate sleep. These are the sour ones used in pies, not so much the sweet Bing cherries that you can eat plain.

Read more:

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Family reunion

I haven't posted to this blog in a few day because we're having a family reunion this weekend to celebrate my mother's 90th birthday. We have over 10 out-0f-town visitors as well as many local friends participating in a weekend of fun and fellowship.
Here are a few pictures from our gatherings thus far, including just a couple of shots of food at the special dinner we had last night at La Poste in Clifton.
I'll try to return to my healthy foodie writing soon!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Microbrew Bison Chili

I'm making this great one-pot crowd pleaser again this weekend, when we're having a big party for my mom's birthday.

I've posted it about once a year, and always get a lot of hits. You can substitute red wine instead of the dark beer, but don't use pale beer, which has much less flavor. Make the chili more or less spicy depending on what your diners prefer.

Recipe: Microbrew Bison Chili

Serves 6-8


3 T canola oil, divided

1 large onion, diced

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped

2 ribs celery, thinly sliced

½ cup diced green pepper (optional)

3 T good-quality chili powder

½ teaspoon chipotle powder, or more to taste

1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 large can diced tomatoes, preferably no-salt-added

1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed

1 cup water

1 pound ground bison (buffalo)

1 bottle dark beer, such as stout

Salt, to taste


1. Heat 2 T of the oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add next five ingredients (onion through green pepper) and sauté, stirring frequently, until veggies start to soften, about 4 minutes.

2. Stir in chili and chipotle powders. Add next 5 ingredients (black beans through water) and stir well. Reduce heat to medium, cover pan.

3. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 T oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add bison and cook, crumbling meat with a wooden spoon as it cooks. When the meat has no pink left in it, remove with a slotted spoon and add to the chili.

4. Stir in beer, and add more water if you want a more soupy consistency (leave it as is if you prefer stew-like chili). Cover pot, reduce heat to low, and let the chili simmer for at least 15 minutes to let all the flavors combine.

Season with salt to taste.

Serve over rice, with corn chips or (my favorite) cornbread. Pass a bowl of grated jack or cheddar cheese at table, if you want. You can freeze any leftovers and have it again on a cold November night.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Strawberry Gelato (from "Recipes for Health")

Here is a lovely sweet treat that's good for you. Use frozen strawberries or fresh ones--it won't be long, maybe another month in our area, before local berries start coming in.

This is from the NY Times Health pages, and it avoids cream by substituting lowfat milk. Or you can use whole milk.

Recipe: Strawberry Gelato
Serves 6-8


1 1-pound bag frozen strawberries; or 1 pound ripe, sweet strawberries, hulled

1/2 cup sugar, preferably organic fair-trade sugar

1/4 cup water

2 cups milk (2 percent or whole)

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Pinch of salt


1. Place a 1-quart container and one smaller container — for any extra gelato — in the freezer. Combine the strawberries, sugar and water in a medium saucepan, and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the strawberries thaw and become very soft, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, and transfer half the mixture to a blender. Since the mixture is hot, just cover the top of the blender jar with a dish towel pulled down tight. Blend until smooth, and then add half the milk. Blend again until smooth. Repeat with the remaining strawberries and milk. Transfer to a bowl, and chill in the refrigerator.

2. Stir in the lemon juice and salt, and transfer to the container of an ice cream maker. Freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions. Scrape into the chilled container, and return to the freezer for at least two hours before serving. If frozen solid, allow to soften in the refrigerator for 20 to 30 minutes before serving.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Gramma Debbie's Kitchen

Among all the wonderful businesses at my favorite Saturday morning shopping destination, Findlay Market, a recent favorite (and relatively new discovery) is called Gramma Debbie's Kitchen inside the main market building.
I don't believe they have a website, but you can find some info about them from the market's website itself.
My take on this place is a bit "gourmet to go" but with a little down-home kick, and a definite nod to healthy choices, as well.
The menu is divided into Sides, Skillet/Grill Ready, Oven Ready, Heat and Eat,Soups, Breakfast, Vegetables, and Seasonal Salads.
More traditional comfort foods (not the healthy-foodie faves) includes baked beans with sausage and pepper bacon, macaroni and cheese (a couple of versions), stuffed peppers (with sausage and other ingredients), meatloaf, pulled pork barbecue and chicken wings. The there's goetta, buttermilk biscuits and sausage gravy on the breakfast list.
So what does the healthy foodie like here?
All the vegetables pass muster: roasted beets and sweet potatoes; potatoes, carrots and parsnips (also roasted); and my overall favorite, braised kale with cannelini beans--really yummy.
The other section to focus on is the soup list. Try chicken chil, vegetarian chili and vegetarian vegetable. I also like their (raw) chicken burgers.
On top of that, they're carrying some of World Food Bar's stuff. I go for their veggie burgers, and my husband is nuts for their chickpea salad.
Gramma Debbie's is open when the Market is: Tuesdays through Fridays 9-6, Saturdays 8-6 and Sunday 10-4.
Check it out!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Movie theaters get a free pass in having to post calorie counts -- what a rip!

When the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sets new rules requiring restaurants, fast-food joints and convenience stores to post calorie counts for their foods, guess what high-calorie, unhealthy, fat-, sodium, and sugar-laden segment of our obesity-inducing food system has successfully lobbied to get their shameless stuff exempt?

Yes, the movie-theater business. As this article notes, a large popcorn and soda at your local cineplex can give you a day's worth of calories -- and virtually no nutrition.

The rules also will not require restaurants to post calories for alcoholic drinks.

Apparently these rules are about to be released, although they won't go into effect until after the FDA receives " feedback" about the details, making it final late this year or sometime in 2012.

The federal agency is complying with a provision of last year's health care reform law.

Oh well, as usual we are pretty much on our own to figure out what we are putting into our bodies. Good luck with that, everyone....