Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Recipe: Apple, Walnut and Blueberry Tarts

As with anything involving baking apples, popping these in the oven will make your home smell terrific!
Rustic, Free-form Tarts

RECIPE:  Apple, Blueberry and Walnut Tarts
Serves 8
Ingredients and supplies:
2 pre-made pie crusts
Parchment paper
3 baking apples (such as Jonathan), cored and cut into large chunks
2 tablespoons lemon juice.  
1 cup frozen or fresh blueberries (this time of year, most likely frozen)
2/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup natural sugar
3 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut parchment paper into 8 5-inch squares.
Roll each pie crust into a 12-inch square.  Cut each pie crust into quarters, about 6-inch squares.  Place one piece of pie crust onto a piece of parchment paper.  Press into a cup in a cupcake pan, molding pie crust onto the side, but keeping parchment paper from folding into dough.  Repeat until all eight cups are molded.
In a medium bowl, toss apple pieces with lemon juice.  Combine remaining ingredients and toss lightly to coat.  Divide apple mixture into each cup.  Fold dough down over apple mixture and sprinkle lightly with a pinch of natural sugar.
Bake for 35 – 40 minutes, or until crust is lightly brown.  Serving suggestion: top with Greek yogurt. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Why we kiss

OK, this isn't about food and maybe it's not even about health. Nonetheless, it's worth a quick detour since we all do it. Or hope to! The topic is "What is the reason that people kiss each other?" Or in other words, what is the psychological and even evolutionary function of humans locking lips?
According to research published in the New York Times, it's not really that much about sex -- not primarily, at least, the way we size up whether we want to "do it" with someone.
Turns out that kissing serves different functions for different people, depending on what they are looking for at the moment, or in their lives overall.
And people in long-term, committed relationships value kissing as more important than intercourse as a measure of the happiness of their relationship.
Kissing is more about emotional connection than it is about sexual intimacy.
If you want to read more, click here.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Thinking ahead: Thanksgiving Cocktails

Searching through some of my favorite foodie sites, I came across the "Thanksgiving cocktail guide" at Food & Wine magazine. Not that you have to wait until late November to try your hand at some of their ideas....but you might want to consider whether one of their warm bourbon-based concoctions, sparkling wine cocktails, after-dinner coffee libations or drinks made by the pitcher could liven up your holiday gathering(s).
For instance, this cranberry spice cocktail  combines a little hard cider with a couple of liqueurs, bitters and candied ginger. If you don't have all the ingredients on hand, improvise!
Cranberry Spice Cocktail

Monday, October 21, 2013

Comfort Food for Fall (healthy too, of course)

Here is a versatile recipe. These mushrooms can serve as appetizers, lunch fare, or a side dish at dinner. Make enough of them and you also could have a vegetarian main course at dinner.
Thanks to my friend Mary Ann Barnes for this recipe and photo!

RECIPE: Stuffed Mushrooms With Corn and Dijon-Horseradish
Serves 6 – 8
2 pounds baby bellas (about 24), stems removed and reserved
1 12-ounce bag frozen corn, thawed
1 red bell pepper
6 tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon minced garlic
1 bunch parsley, stems removed
1 cup Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon ground horseradish
Dash of pepper for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
Layer corn kernels on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, grind mushroom stems in a food processor.  Transfer to a medium bowl and microwave for 3 minutes.  Add roasted corn to cooked mushroom stems and set aside.  In a small bowl, combine olive oil and garlic.  Arrange mushroom caps, stem side up, on the cooking sheet.  Brush each cap with a small amount of oil/garlic mixture.  Bake for 10 – 15 minutes, or until they just begin to soften.
Meanwhile, remove stem and seeds from the red pepper, and place pepper pieces and parsley in the food processor.  Pulse about 10 times, or until vegetables are coarsely chopped.  Combine chopped vegetables with the corn mixture, Greek yogurt, mustard and horseradish. 
Divide stuffing mixture between mushrooms evenly, reserving any left over mixture for later use.  Sprinkle mushrooms with pepper for garnish, if desired.
Bake 10 more minutes, or until thoroughly heated.  Serve hot, or refrigerate and serve chilled.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Soup time: Try this proven winner

Keep this recipe in your file and make it often! It combines good taste with a great nutritional profile, which is just what we healthy foodies love to eat (and to cook). Note that this is a vegetarian soup, and if you omit a sprinkling of Parmesan at table, it's also vegan.

(Serves 6-8)

For the soup:
1 1/2 cups canned white beans, drained and rinsed 
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 leeks, white and light green part only, cleaned and sliced
1 pound tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped, or 1 14-ounce can, with liquid
2 cups shredded savoy or green cabbage
2 large carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 medium-size zucchini, scrubbed and diced
2 medium-size turnips, peeled and diced (optional)
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and broken into 1-inch pieces (about 2 cups), blanched for five minutes and set aside
1/2 cup soup pasta, such as macaroni or small shells
Freshly ground pepper

For the pesto: (NOTE: You also can use prepared pesto)
2 large garlic cloves, halved, green shoots removed
Salt to taste
2 cups, tightly packed, fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan for sprinkling

1.  Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet, and add chopped onion and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until tender, about five minutes. Add the leeks and garlic. Stir together for a few minutes, and add the tomatoes. Cook, stirring, until the tomatoes have cooked down slightly and the mixture is fragrant, five to 10 minutes. Stir this mixture into a large soup pot, add the beans and all of the remaining vegetables except the green beans, and bring back to a simmer. Cover and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes to an hour. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
2. While the soup is simmering, blanch the green beans for five minutes in salted boiling water. Transfer to a bowl of ice-cold water. Drain and set aside.
3. To make the pesto, mash the garlic with a generous pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle. Remove it and set aside. Grind the basil to a paste in the mortar, a handful at a time, then add the garlic back in and mix together well. Work in the olive oil a tablespoon at a time, then stir in the cheese.
4. Add the pasta to the simmering soup about 10 minutes before serving, and cook until al dente. Add pepper, taste and adjust salt. Stir the blanched green beans into the soup and heat through. Serve, adding a spoonful of pesto to each bowl for guests to stir in. Pass additional Parmesan for sprinkling.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Django Western Taco (Northside)

Grilled Salmon @ Django
When Django -- little sister of our favorite La Poste -- opened a year or so ago, it definitely had some kinks to work out. My first couple of visits weren't happy: tacos made with flour tortillas, virtually no cocktails other than margaritas (just not a fave here), and a limited menu.
Within the past few months, however, they've done a much better job on all fronts and it's now one of the area's best choices for a weeknight, inexpensive dinner. The back patio -- with live music at least one night a week -- is perfect right now before it turns cold.
Maybe one reason this restaurant found its groove has to do with the competition, now that Northside has developed a critical mass of tacos joints: there are two others within a very short walk. But IMHO Django wins the crown for best all-around place to eat and drink in this section of Hamilton Avenue. (The only better version of tacos-and-beer-or-booze would be Bakersfield in OTR, but that's a different story.)
Django is doing Sunday brunch, weekday lunch and dinner Monday - Saturday. Dinner is the most fun, at least for me, if only because I'm not going to drink alcohol at lunch very often. In addition to serving dozens of interesting beers, there are the usual margaritas and another cocktail I've come to like that mixes a shot of Jameson with (alcoholic) ginger beer--a drink that was sneakily potent even though it went down like ginger ale.
The dinner menu isn't complicated; it consists of a few chips-and-dips type starters, a selection of five different tacos (beef, veggie, shrimp, etc.) available on flour or corn tortillas [I still don't understand why anyone would have a taco on a flour tortilla, but maybe that's just me], and a handful of entrees. Since I'm picky about tacos and much prefer house-made tortillas -- which very few local restaurants do -- I've been ordering from the entrees list.
There's a hearty, shrimp-and-tomato based stew called Molcajete ($18), which is enough for two people to split if you've already polished off some chips and guacamole. This is a great dish for cooler weather but I haven't ordered it in recent months.
The Chiles Rellenos -- a deal at $9 -- is massive and quite tasty; I couldn't finish it.
My favorite though is the Grilled Salmon ($12), with a smoky flavor and lots of delicious ingredients sharing the plate, such as guacamole, spinach, onion, tomato, rice and a few pieces of crispy bacon.
 There are a couple of desserts on the menu but I've never finished my meal with an ounce of room to consider ordering one of them.
Fun place!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Fall Food Festival -- with Pie Contest -- at Findlay Market

This Sunday 10//13........
For details -- I realize this is unreadable -- go to

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Comfort Food for Cooler Weather -- Made Healthier

From Eating Well:

21 Fall Casseroles Made Healthy

"Warm and gooey casseroles are an ultimate fall comfort food. But classic recipes are often loaded with high-fat, high-sodium ingredients like cream-of-something soups. Our healthy casseroles are packed with yummy vegetables and lean protein. Don't miss our Creamy Hamburger Noodle Casserole or Quinoa & Butternut Squash Casserole and more!"

The secret, of course, is to maximize veggies, beans and other healthful ingredients while minimizing stuff that is less good for us, such as cheese and meat.
Click here to check out the magazine's suggestions for everything from baked mac and cheese to hamburger-and-noodle casseroles, all with less than the usual amount of fat and calories per serving....but still pretty delicious.
(For instance, the photo is of Baked Cod with Chorizo and White Beans -- just a little of the chorizo goes a long way in adding flavor!)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Looking young: the latest from the science of aging

What makes us look younger than our years, or conversely, what ages us beyond what we would prefer?
Jane Brody summarized some of the most recent research into what works, and what doesn't, when it comes to keeping a youthful appearance -- something we just can't seem to help caring about.
Factors that can make you look older: smoking, sun exposure, excessive stress, and taking anti-depressants.
Other interesting tidbits:
If you're over 40, a higher BMI makes you look younger, because fat fills in facial wrinkles. (We knew that, right?) What she doesn't address is at what point plumpness becomes unhealthful enough that the wrinkle filler isn't worth it.
People who smile and laugh a lot look younger than those who have more dour countenances.
Strength training is more important than aerobic exercise in making us look fit, healthy and yes, younger.