Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Another Healthy Entree -- Yummy, too

I can't resist posting this recipe from the dining section of the New York Times. I love Brussels sprouts, especially thinly sliced and sauteed. Here is a simple, satisfying prep that makes a delicious one-dish meal -- plus the pot to cook the noodles -- and uses a bit of pancetta and chile or red pepper for zip.

Can't wait to make it -- have everything but the pancetta in house.....
Pasta with zip

RECIPE: Penne with Brussels Sprouts, Pancetta and Chile
Serves 2
·         Sea salt
·         8 ounces penne
·         2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, more for drizzling
·         3 ounces pancetta, diced
·         1 large rosemary sprig
·         6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
·         1 jalapeño or Serrano chile, thinly sliced (or substitute 1 large pinch crushed red pepper flakes)
·         Freshly ground black pepper
·         8 ounces Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced
·         2 teaspoons butter
·         Fresh lemon juice, for serving
·         Freshly grated pecorino cheese (optional)
1. Bring large pot heavily salted water to a boil. Add the penne and cook until pasta is just al dente (do not overcook).
2. Meanwhile, heat large sauté pan over high heat and add the olive oil. When oil is hot, add the pancetta and rosemary, and sauté until the fat on the pancetta starts to turn translucent and very lightly brown, about 1 minute. Add the garlic, chile and freshly ground black pepper to taste, and sauté until garlic and pancetta turn richly brown, about 3 minutes. Add the Brussels sprouts, a large pinch of salt and a splash of water to pan, and sauté until sprouts just start to soften, about 2 minutes. Spread sprouts mixture in pan and press down to flatten. Let it sear for a minute, then stir it up and repeat. This helps brown the sprouts. Add the butter, and sauté for another minute.
3.Drain penne and add it to pan with brussels sprouts mixture. Cook, tossing, until everything is well mixed. Spoon into pasta bowls and top with a drizzle of oil and lemon juice, and a little cheese if you like.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Between holidays: Let's eat healthier!

Went to my gym this morning and it was more crowded than usual. It's rather obviously an appropriate time to atone for the (wonderfully long) holiday weekend indulgence with better health habits than most of us probably practiced over Thanksgiving.
Simple dinners, consisting of gently cooked lean protein and fresh vegetables, will be on our menu this week -- along with a few remaining leftovers such as turkey and cranberries.

Here's a recipe for poached salmon, from Food & Wine, that I think you'll enjoy. 

Recipe: Poached Salmon with Cucumber Raita
Serves 4
1 1/2 quarts water
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
3 tablespoons vinegar
1 onion, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
9 sprigs parsley
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon peppercorns
3 bay leaves
3 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and grated
1 3/4 cups plain yogurt
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground
black pepper
Four 6-ounce salmon filets

1. In a large deep frying pan, combine the water, wine, vinegar, onion, carrot,
parsley, thyme, peppercorns, bay leaves, and 2 1/4 teaspoons of the salt. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a medium glass or stainless-steel bowl, combine the cucumber and the remaining teaspoon salt. Let sit for 10 minutes. With your hands, squeeze the cucumber and discard the liquid. Put the cucumber back into the bowl and add the yogurt, garlic, mint, and ground pepper.Refrigerate until ready to serve.
3. Add the fish to the liquid in the pan and bring back to a simmer. Simmer, partially covered, until the fish is just barely done (it should still be translucent in the center), about 4 minutes for a 1-inch-thick fillet. Remove
the pan from the heat and let the fish sit in the liquid for 2 minutes. Transfer to plates and, if you like, remove the skin. Serve the salmon warm or at room temperature. Top with the raita and then sprinkle the raita with the paprika.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Best cocktails in town?

I definitely have a few favorite bartenders, and cocktails. Some of the best are:

--Molly Wellman at Japp's (and a bourbon bar in Covington KY), OTR
Molly Wellman, Japp's

--Rommel Wells at Rookwood Restaurant, Mt. Adams
Rommel Wells, Rookwood

--Nikki at La Poste, Clifton
Nikki, La Poste

--Whoever's behind the bar, Bakersfield, OTR

--The folks at Local 127, downtown

Of late, I've been especially wowed by the craft cocktails at Bakersfield. You have to ask for the cocktail list; otherwise, the menu includes only margaritas (boring, sugar-laden drinks, IMHO) and sangria. One of their standards is a spicy bourbon concoction called the "Red-headed Stranger," which stays on the cocktail list everlastingly. And we can all be grateful for that. Among the newer offerings is a delicious, tequila-based delight called "The Drifter."
Up at Rookwood, the house made tonic is usually available to brighten up your gin, and there's often house made ginger beer or ginger ale.
I haven't tried the bar at the new Metropole, downtown -- or the restaurant, for that matter. I'm betting it's going to jump right onto my list of Cincinnati's great places to imbibe.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Last minute tips for a healthy, happy TG Day

 Here are some healthy-foodie ideas for enjoying Thanksgiving without remorse.

1. Eat a full breakfast and a light lunch. Don't "save up" for the big meal--you'll be famished, a perfect recipe for overindulgence.
2. Take a walk before dinner, weather permitting. Even if the weather isn't all that great, get off your duff for at least a half hour of exercise--more if at all possible.
3. Lay off the booze until dinner is served. Pre-dinner alcohol lowers your inhibitions and leads to useless extra calories, not just in the drinks themselves but also in snacks you'll likely add on.
4. Decide in advance whether and how much wine or other alcoholic beverages you will drink. Then pace yourself so you can stick within your pre-set limits.
5. Eat only your favorite dishes, and pass on the others. Pick only one out of these three: mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and bread stuffing/dressing. Easy on the gravy, too!
6. Wait at least a half hour between dinner and dessert. If this requires a request to your hostess before the meal, go ahead and ask. If you have no influence over the timing, step away from the table and come back later. Make up an excuse if you need to. Waiting for dessert is crucial--your brain will have time to get the message from your full stomach, and you won't want as much dessert, or maybe not any.
7. Pick one dessert or very small portions of more than one.
8. Take a walk after dinner.

Remember, the fat-producing, health-sabotaging culprits in this meal are alcoholic drinks, gravy, sauces (such as that superfluous stuff people put on green beans), toppings (I'm thinking of marshmallows on sweet potatoes, horrors) and desserts. Minimize those!

Take larger portions of turkey (especially the white meat), baked potatoes, roasted root vegetables, green veggies with as little sauce as possible, salads without mayonnaise, fruit salads, and just a little bit of cranberry sauce (too much sugar).

Most importantly, remember to enjoy the company of those you are with and be grateful that we are blessed with such an abundant life that consuming TOO MANY calories is at the forefront of our minds. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Your best contribution to holiday potlucks

I like to bring healthy, vegetable based dishes to any potluck or other “bring a dish” party. They are always popular, and (sadly) are often the only vegetables other than crudités on the table. Healthy side dishes are more important at the holidays than ever, for the obvious reason that we all tend to overeat unhealthful foods this time of year. Do yourself and your friends and family a favor – whip up this delicious and quick-to-prepare veggie dish, which also will enhance your own holiday table.

RECIPE: Sliced Brussels Sprouts with Mushrooms and Peppers
Serves 10-12

¼ cups canola oil
2 cups diced fresh mushrooms
2 large red or yellow bell peppers, seeded and diced
3 T minced garlic
6 cups sliced Brussels sprouts
1 cup (more or less) chicken or vegetable broth or stock
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oil in a large, deep sided frying pan to medium heat. Add mushrooms and peppers and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes, until vegetables start to soften a little. Stir in garlic and sprouts and add half the broth. Stir-fry for another 3-4 minutes, adding more broth as needed to keep the vegetables moist.
Add salt and pepper, cover the pan and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for approximately 5 more minutes. Remove from heat when sprouts reach your preferred level of doneness, which will depend on how thickly you have sliced them and how al dente you like the veggies. Adjust seasonings to taste, spoon into a serving dish or traveling container (if bringing to a potluck dinner). May be served warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Thanksgiving side: Sweet potatoes mashed with coconut milk

Coconut Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Cranberries
Adapted from The New York Times Health Pages, 11/13/12
Try these easy butter-free, dairy-free mashed yams, dressed up with creamy coconut and an infusion of warm autumn spices.
3 large garnet or other sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 cup canned coconut milk, mixed well before measuring
1/3 cup maple syrup or packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/3 cup dried cranberries or golden raisins, soaked in warm water for 10 to 15 minutes and drained
1. Place potato pieces in a large pot and cover with cold water. Cover and bring to a boil. Cook until fork-tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and return to pot.
2. Add coconut milk, maple syrup, salt and spices, and mash with a potato masher until smooth. Adjust seasoning to taste. Add more coconut milk for a creamier texture and more maple syrup for a sweeter flavor. Mix in cranberries and serve.
Yield: 6 servings

Sunday, November 11, 2012

What's STILL at the farm markets....

If you've stopped visiting your local farmer's market(s) for the season, you're missing out on some great produce, baked goods, non-industrial eggs, poultry and meat -- just to name a few!
Cincinnati's historic Findlay Market in the middle of a 'hood known as Over-the-Rhine is always part of my my Saturday morning routine, year round.
Here are photos taken 11/10/12 of what the local farmers and bakers are selling. The weekend before Thanksgiving will bring in huge crowds -- what better place to get fresh (not frozen) turkey, Eckerlin's terrific fresh cranberry salad, fabulous pies of every variety, and a cheese platter to die for?

Persimmons--they grow wild here!

Hothouse tomatoes still available

Blue Oven Bakery--come early if you want some!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Red wine and your health: let me count the ways

I picked this up from the Today Show's website while looking at something else.

Of course we've all heard that wine, and in particular red wine, has health benefits. Here's a nifty little list of no fewer than EIGHT reasons that a nice pour every day is good for us:
1. A couple of studies have demonstrated that red wine can lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol.
2. Red wine has blood-thinning properties that can protect your heart by helping to keep arteries unclogged.
3. The skin of red grapes helps regular blood sugar in those with diabetes, or pre-diabetes.
4. It can keep your brain in good health, boosting memory.
5. Its antioxidants assist the immune system in fighting viruses, such as the common cold.
6. According to researchers at the University of Virginia, the resveratrol you get from drinking one glass of red wine three or four times a week may be enough to starve any nascent cancer cells. The scientists dosed human cancer cells with resveratrol and found that the compound inhibited the key action of a cancer-feeding protein.
7. Some studies suggest that red wine can prevent the growth of fat cells in our bodies.
8. Cooking with wine is just as effective as drinking it.

Click here to read the entire article, with details about the research backing these claims.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Fish oil: Should you or shouldn't you?

Whether one should take fish oil supplements, in pills, is debatable -- but the health benefits of the fats that are natural in seafood really isn't open to question.
I always feel that it's better to get nutrients from food rather than pills. But if for some reason you can't eat enough fish, consider supplements.
A reader sent me a link to her blog post about why she recommends the fish oil pills Her reasons include well documented relationships between the fats in fish and cardiovascular health, control of depression, improvements in skin and facial complexion. and other important benefits.
Click here to read the article.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Republican? Democrat? Invite a [insert other party here] to dinner

On the eve of Election 2012, let's take a deep breath and remember that our differences should not overwhelm the fact that we're all loyal and proud Americans. Our partisan rancor has gotten so miserably out of control, it's worth asking ourselves whether this is how we want to be in the world.
No wonder Congress is gridlocked and can't get anything done -- they are, after all, representing us. 
So here are a couple of things to contemplate.
1. The world will not end if the other guy gets elected. 
2. Neither side has all the answers, but we should listen to each other with open minds (even if open only a tiny crack) to figure out how we can work together to solve our country's many pressing problems.
3. Try not to hate politicians of the other party; respect their world view as being as valid as your own. They believe they're right, just as those on "our" side do.
4. [And this is the point of the title of my post] Cultivate friendships with people who are not of your political persuasion. Meet someone from "the other side" for coffee, a drink, a meal. Steer clear of politics as a topic of conversation if you want, and if it does come up, LISTEN more than you express your own opinions.
Remember Chris Christie and Barack Obama after Hurricane Sandy, and let's hope that can be a model for the future.

And vote, of course.