Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Homemade applesauce -- so worth the effort!

And it's not all that much effort if you don't peel the apples. (Remember, apple peels are good for you -- full of vitamins and fiber.) It's best served warm, and I like to add a sprinkle of granola or nuts -- something crunchy.

RECIPE: Applesauce

Total time: About 30 minutes

3 pounds tart apples, such as pippins, Gravensteins, Macintosh, Granny Smith, Pink Lady, peeled if desired, cored and cut in chunks
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice
Sweet spices if desired (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves)

1. Place apples and water in a heavy saucepan and stir over medium-high heat until the mixture is bubbling. Reduce heat to low and cover. Cook, stirring often, until the apples have cooked down but still have some texture, 15 to 20 minutes. Add sugar, lemon or lime juice, and spices, cover and simmer for another 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool, or serve warm or hot.
Yield: Makes about 3 1/2 cups, serving 6

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Dinner at Orchids

Best restaurant in Cincinnati -- Orchids lives up to its rep.
We went for a delayed Valentine's Day dinner on Friday night.
Everything about the experience was excellent, not the least of which is the setting in the Hilton Hotel historic, art deco Palm Court. We had a cocktail at the lovely bar before checking in for our table.
I've always liked the appetizer courses best at Orchids, maybe because I'm the hungriest when they bring the first course. My order was the irresistible lobster salad, and George got the bay scallops. Both are pictured here.
Scallops appetizer
My other photos -- taken with the cell phone -- didn't turn out well enough to post.
Sommelier Charles Redmond matched glasses of wine with our courses, and they were almost all unusual and delicious. For instance, with the scallops he poured a Spanish Godello, a wine I've only recently discovered. George loved it.
Signature dish: Lobster salad

We both got a bowl of potato leek soup as a second course; then he had red snapper and I went with short ribs. The beef dish was a bit too rich for my tastes and I didn't finish the dish, but on the other hand Charles poured my favorite wine of the evening, a merlot-based meritage from California, I believe.
The pasty chef is nationally known so we had to order dessert, too. But by then I could only eat a few bites, darn. If I'd skipped the soup......or had fish as an entree.....dessert might have been a more enjoyable addition. Again though I really liked the Banyuls (a French dessert wine) that Charles matched with my chocolate-based dessert.
All in all, a fine meal and great evening.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Giveaway: "Wonderful Sweet Scarletts Texas Grapefruit" Gift Pack

Post three reasons why you love grapefruit and you can have this gift pack shipped to your address!
Be sure to include your email address so I can notify the winner (only one, sorry) and get a mailing address.

The gift pack includes:

  • ·         New Wonderful Sweet Scarletts Texas red grapefruit
  • ·         A spoon and knife specially designed to help prep and eat grapefruit
  • ·         A saver to keep your grapefruit half fresh either at home or on-the-go
  • ·         Grapefruit-scented votive candle

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Gluten-Free Scam

It seems like a scam to me, because very few people actually need to avoid gluten for health reasons. But there are plenty of gullible targets out there who think that buying the (more expensive) "gluten-free" products will cure their real or imagined ills.
Here are excerpts from a New York Times article about the money that food manufacturers and retailers are making off all this.

The Girl Scouts recently introduced a gluten-free chocolate chip shortbread cookie to their annually anticipated line of sweet treats.
Vodka companies vie over which one of them was the “first” to introduce a gluten-free version of their products.
And Trader Joe’s recently joked in an advertising flier promoting gluten-free foods that it was selling “Gluten Free Greeting Cards 99 Cents Each! Every Day!” — even though it then went on to say the cards were not edible.
Makers of products that have always been gluten-free, including popcorn, potato chips, nuts and rice crackers, are busy hawking that quality in ads and on their packaging.

What a rip-off!
Click here to read more.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Beef Stew, Lightened up & good comfort food

Beef stew doesn't have to be a no-no for the healthy foodie.
If you emphasize a pot full of delicious, hearty vegetables made even more scrumptious by a judicious amount of high-quality, grass-fed beef, you can enjoy this delightful comfort food without a shred of guilt.
Unless you avoid it for ethical reasons, a little meat in most diets is not a bad thing. Iron and other minerals are more plentiful in red meat than in any other food you can ingest.

And while I'm against supermarket or fast-food meats --see "Food, Inc" or read Michael Pollan and others if you don't already know about the horrors of our industrial food system and its treatment of animals--humanely raised and butchered meat is a treat we allow ourselves once in awhile.

All that said, here is a re-posting of one of my blog's most popular recipes. In addition to the usual beef-stew veggies, this version tastes even better thanks to porcini mushrooms and leeks being included in the mix.

Recipe: Healthier Beef Stew
(Serves 4)

  • 8 ounces stew beef in bite-size chunks
  • 3 T canola oil
  • 2 leeks, rinsed well, white and light green parts only, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 3 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 lb new potatoes (red or white), cut into bite-size chunks
  • 3 large carrots, cut into bite-size chunks
  • 1 large onion, peeled and cut into bite-size chunks (optional)
  • 12 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 2 cups hot water for 15 minutes, drained and chopped
  • 2 T flour
  • Mushroom soaking liquid, strained to remove sand from mushrooms, about 1 1/2 cups
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 3 cups beef stock or beef broth
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1 T dried thyme
  • 2 large bay leaves

  1. Heat oil in your largest saucepan or a Dutch oven over medium high heat. When oil begins to sizzle, add beef and cook, stirring, until beef begins to brown. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate or bowl and keep nearby.
  2. Add leeks and garlic to pot, stirring for 1-2 minutes until they begin to soften. Stir in remaining vegetables (potatoes through porcini mushrooms) and cook, stirring occasionally, until all the vegetables begin to heat up and start to cook, about 3-4 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle flour over the veggies, stir well, and cook for another 2 minutes.
  4. Return beef to the pot.
  5. Add liquids (mushroom soaking liquid, wine and stock/broth), stirring well.
  6. Cover the pot and bring the mixture to a low boil.
  7. Remove cover, reduce heat to medium and add thyme, salt, pepper and the bay leaves.
  8. Cook for another 30 minutes or until carrots and potatoes are your desired level of tenderness by testing with the point of a knife.
  9. Discard the bay leaves before serving.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Winter Blues Chaser

One of the (few) things I love about winter is the citrus fruits. They are in peak season now -- oranges, tangerines, grapefruits, even lemons are better now than at any time of year.
I'm especially fond of juicy, red grapefruit, and have a half of one sprinkled with a packet of Splenda almost every morning.
For something a little more elaborate though, I sometimes make a citrus salad that includes orange slices, thinly sliced fresh fennel bulb and chopped walnuts in a simple vinaigrette.
It's easy.
(I also like to call this "sunshine on a plate")

Recipe: Citrus Salad with Fennel and Walnuts
(Serves 2-3; can be doubled)

For the salad:
1 large orange, peeled (no white pith remaining) and sectioned
1 large or two small grapefruits, prepared the same as the orange
1/2 fennel bulb, stalks and outer layer discarded, cut into thin slices
1/3 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped

For the dressing:
Juice from the orange and grapefruit (drain off as much as you can from the sections, and squeeze the remaining fruit well after you have sectioned them)
1 bunch fresh basil, chopped coarsely (about 1/4 to 1/3 cup when chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil, or a mixture of olive and walnut oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice


1. For the salad: Combine orange, grapefruit and fennel in a bowl. Stir well. Drain off as much juice as possible to add to the dressing. Stir in walnuts and set aside.
2. For the dressing: Put all ingredients except oil(s) in a food processor and pulse until basil is chopped. Add oil slowly with processor running. The dressing will be thin, not creamy.
3. Pour dressing over salad and stir well. Serve!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Grading a few local restaurants

Here's a quick look at some of our recent restaurant experiences
Tiny "cassoulet" at Nuvo

NUVO in Covington: Had a great adventure there, much fun and delicious food. As I posted after our visit, there's no menu and you just eat what the kitchen sends out. A
Red Feather in Oakley: The replacement for Boca, they've done a lot to liven up the bar scene and make it a more casual, neighborhood place. The food was hit-or-miss, but my entree of short ribs with mashed potatoes and roasted root veggies was a winner. It's only been open for a few months at most, so it probably needs a little more time to iron out the kinks. B
Short ribs @ Red Feather

La Poste in Clifton: This is our neighborhood favorite and it never disappoints. We're so glad to have a destination restaurant that's a five-minute drive, or 10-minute walk, from our front door. Our only beef is that the menu would make us happier with a few lighter choices, but the owner mentioned that they're working on that and plan to revise the menu in that direction soon. A-
La Poste
Bistro Grace in Northside: Another treat to have nearby, this is Suzanne McGarry's dinner spot on Hamilton Avenue in the old location for Honey. One cool feature is that they're open every night, including Sunday, and they've started to add special deals such as half-price burgers on Sunday and half-price wine nights (not sure which night) and happy hour specials on weeknights. It's also very new but the kitchen started off with a bang, quality wise. A few details need to be tweaked, such as providing more interesting bread and perhaps adding a few more shareable dishes. They had a very soft opening in late November, so we hope that enough people catch onto its presence to make it a success. B+
Yummy hangar steak -- Cincy Enquirer photo