Thursday, July 30, 2009

Running Creek Farm -- at Northside Farmers Market

This week I am featuring Running Creek Farm at the Northside Farmers Market. Running Creek has one of the most attractive booths and extensive selections of fresh, locally grown foods you can find at any metro-area market.

Co-owner Jim Lowenburg told me he grows about 14 varieties of potato and 20 types of tomatoes. Yesterday, the booth had a good selection of each along with five types of garlic. If you haven't had fresh-picked, local garlic but only know the supermarket stuff, do yourself a favor and find a market that sells the former. It will be a revelation!

As you can see from the photo, there's also a pretty display of cut flowers for sale here.

Running Creek Farm is in Mt. Healthy, OH, and all their produce is pesticide-free.

Northside Market at Hoffner Park (off Hamilton) is open Wednesdays from 4 - 7:30 PM.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Seafood and chicken gumbo recipe

Here is a favorite summer dish--best in summer primarily because you can get fresh okra.

Don't say "yech" to okra! I know it can be slimy and awful, but if you cook it properly (see technique below, step 1), it is surprisingly pleasing to the palate.
Summer also is a great time to make gumbo because farm-fresh tomatoes, peppers and onions enhance its aromatic flavors.
Serve over rice, and add plenty of hot sauce, to your taste!
Seafood and Chicken Gumbo

Fresh okra is seasonal (late spring until first freeze), but you can also use frozen okra in this recipe. If so, eliminate step 1 below and add frozen okra in step 3.
(Serves 4-6)
1 lb. okra, trimmed and sliced (about 4 cups)
4 T canola oil or butter, or a mix, divided
1 medium green pepper, diced (1 cup)
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 small onion, chopped (1 cup)
2 T flour
4 cups chicken stock, heated
2 cups chopped tomatoes
2 T each chopped fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried) and parsley
1 large bay leaf
½ teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1 lb. uncooked shrimp (peeled and deveined), crabmeat, or chicken (boneless, skinless, cut into bite-size pieces), or a combination
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1 T Tabasco or other hot sauce, ore more to taste

1. Heat 2T oil/butter over medium-high heat in a skillet. Add okra and sauté, stirring often, for about 8-10 minutes until “roping” (thin strands of white substance) subsides. Set aside.
2. Heat remaining oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add pepper, garlic and onion and sauté until veggies turn translucent, about 5 minutes.
3. Stir in flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add chicken stock, tomatoes, herbs, salt, and reserved okra.
4. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 15-20 minutes.
5. Stir in shrimp, chicken and/or crabmeat, cover and cook another 5-10 minutes until meat is tender. Be careful not to overcook shrimp.
6. Remove from heat. Discard bay leaf, stir in lemon juice, Worcestershire and hot sauces. Add more salt if necessary.
7. Ladle into bowls over white or brown rice. Pass more hot sauce at the table.

Another marvelous summer meal

This meal is based on three delicious cheeses purchased at Findlay Market last Saturday. The cheeses, at the top of the photo and starting with the one nearest the camera, are Humbolt Fog (a goat cheese with two textures--creamy on the exterior and crumbly in the middle); behind it is a Brie with walnuts; to the left of that is one of my favorite blue cheeses, because it is less salty than most, the hard-to-find Ferme d'Ambert.

We had only a quarter-pound of each, and some leftover at the end of the meal. This is indulgent, full-fat stuff, so healthy foodies should eat these in careful moderation. But they are so, so yummy!

To go with the cheeses, I laid out chunks of the freshest tomatoes (with high quality balsamic vinegar for drizzling), dried and fresh fruits including cherries, golden kiwi and dried figs, candied walnuts, truffled honey (a treat brought back from Italy) to drizzle on the cheese, thick slices of whole-grain bread (not pictured), and in the foreground, the one hot dish of the meal. It's Swiss chard sauteed with onion, mushrooms and a little red bell pepper.

To drink, I put out Riesling and dry, Amontillado sherry.

This was a terrific repast!

Monday, July 27, 2009

"Food, Inc." -- bottom line

The documentary about the American industrial food system, "Food, Inc.," is still playing at the Esquire Theatre in Cincinnati. See it, if you possibly can.

For those who can't, or just don't want to, see a movie about the dangers in what we are eating, here are a few of the filmmakers' recommendations for actions that concerned individuals can take to counteract the powerful forces keeping this unhealthy system in place:

First and foremost, the movie suggests that we "vote three times a day" for healthier food, meaning we can change the system, if incrimentally, when we select the foods we put on our tables and in our mouths at every meal. Selecting healthy, wholesome, safe food means (for instance) buying at farmers' markets and other sources of fresh, locally or regionally grown, organic (when possible) foods. Read labels and don't buy stuff with a long list of chemical ingredients and/or high fructose corn syrup and/or trans fats. Avoid supermarket and fast-food sources of meat and poultry. Shift to a more plant-based diet--I don't think the movie actually advised that, due to the long arm of the meat lobby's lawyers, but reading between the lines, I find that message comes through pretty clearly.

In fact, my strongest reaction to watching "Food, Inc." was a desire to make and eat more vegetarian meals than we already do.

But since meat is tasty and not always easy to do without, note that farmers' markets often include vendors from regional farms who raise grass-fed cattle and free-range poultry, which can be part of any healthy foodie's diet. The two markets I frequent--Findlay and Northside--do have those foods. You can also search the Internet for places to buy non-industrial meats and eggs.

Summer and fall are easy times to eat a "locavore" diet. The real challenges come when the growing season ends. Stay tuned later in the year for winter strategies for healthy foodies.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Summer salad--in new dishes

Here's a simple salad from the bounty of summer, with a one or two exotic ingredients thrown in.

--Use locally grown lettuces from your closest farmers market (I like arugula best)

--Dice one-half large, ripe tomato, add light salt and pepper

--Dice a cup of seedless watermelon

--Make your vinaigrette with a couple tablespoons of high-quality Balsamic vinegar, 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper

--Toss all ingredients, sprinkle with goat cheese crumbles and chopped pecans, and serve. (These proportions are for 2 servings, but double them for 4, etc.)

The dishes are from a stop at one of my favorite road finds: Bloomfield's, a wonderful tableware and all things houseware in Flat Rock, NC, on I-26 between Asheville NC and Greenville SC. Discount prices on Fiesta ware, Italian crockery, and an amazing array of cookware, gadgets, grilling utensils, glassware, tablecloths, and too many other things to name.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Road Food (Asheville, NC)

Just back from 6 days in western North Carolina, a family-oriented, working trip with few culinary highlights. But we did get to stop--going and coming--in Asheville.

Among its many charms, the mountain town is blessed with plenty of good restaurants. My go-to fave is the vegetarian Laughing Seed, where we had lunch on the way to our destination (Rutherfordton, NC). On the way home, we met my step-brother for lunch at the Corner Kitchen in Biltmore Village. The photo at left is of a lavendar-infused chicken salad that my mom had; the smaller photo (right) is my "ploughman's lunch," the best part of which was the cup of gazpacho. That black blob on the plate is a grilled portobello mushroom.

Monday, July 20, 2009

"Out of pocket"

For most of this week (7/20), I am on the road in North Carolina.
Regular blogging will resume by week's end!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Northside Farmers Market -- Expanded and Improved

The Northside Farmers Market used to be crammed into a small parking lot on Hamilton Avenue across from Melt and the Northside Tavern. Parking was impossible and it was hot and full of car fumes there.

This year, however, the market has moved to Hoffner Park, which is just off Hamilton Ave. (take a left on Hoffner St.) as you enter Northside from Clifton. The location is a huge improvement. Vendors now are comfortably spread out, there are benches and even shady spots where you can relax while you shop, and many more vendors usually come to this great location.

My favorite find so far is some wonderful watermelon gazpacho--look for a tent near the entrance where they are giving out samples of their many vegan and vegetarian goodies. (I did not get the name of the vendors, sorry!)

The offerings are likely to expand even more as the growing season hits its full stride in the next few weeks. The market is every Wednesday from 4 - 7:30 PM.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

"Healthy eating needn't be costly"

This is the headline from an Associated Press story in today's local paper.
The article notes that in these hard economic times, many people think it is more frugal to eat cheap fast food than more expensive fresh fruits, veggies and seafood.

But the writer points out that there are many ways to eat healthfully on a lower budget.

Some of the less expensive but healthful foods mentioned: eggs, spinach, milk, apples, carrots, canned or frozen corn, canned tomatoes, chicken, potatoes and lean hamburger. I would add canned tuna and brown rice, right off the top of my head.

Fast food may be convenient and cheap, but most of it is a nutritional zero--not good for you or your kids!

And in the middle of summer, fresh veggies and some fruits are widely available and less expensive than at any other time of year.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A farm-fresh dinner

From the weekend's haul at Findlay Market, supplemented by pantry staples:

Sliced tomatoes with salt, pepper and a little bit of high quality Balsamic vinegar;

A skillet dish of corn cut off the cob, a few steamed Brussels sprouts, diced red pepper and shallot, sauteed in canola oil and a touch of butter, with salt, pepper and 1/4 cup chopped herbs from the garden (in this case, parsley and thyme);

Fettuccini tossed with a simple mushroom sauce.
My husband also had some multi-grain bread with olive oil.
Healthy, vegetarian, locavore, filling and YUMMY. Hooray for summer!!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Recipes -- Cauliflower!

The Healthy Foodies love cauliflower! While it can be boring all by itself, cauliflower’s versatility and nutty texture--when cooked properly—make it a staple in our kitchen. Along with broccoli and cabbage, it is one of the most healthful veggies in the market, and you can get it year-round. Local farmers may have some at their stands right now, in July.

Here are a couple of tasty recipes with cauliflower as a star ingredient—one with an Italian accent, the other featuring Indian flavors. You can substitute the broccoli/cauliflower hybrid “broco-flower,” if you like.

Pasta with Cauliflower, Currants and Pine Nuts

Note: You can omit the anchovies if you prefer, but the ingredient does add depth to the dish.

Serves 4
½ cup dried currants
¼ cup white wine
3 cups cauliflower florets, steamed lightly until tender but still firm
¼ cup olive oil
4 anchovy filets
½ cup pine nuts, toasted
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 pound pasta, preferably whole wheat (can use spaghetti type pasta or shapes such as penne), cooked according to package directions
¼ cup water
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup dry bread crumbs, toasted
1/3 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Soak currants in wine for about 15 minutes and set aside.
Heat a large skillet and add olive oil. Add anchovies and cook over high heat for about 1 minute, mashing them with a wooden spoon. Add cauliflower and cook until it begins to brown. Add pine nuts, currents in the wine and crushed red pepper. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until the liquid evaporates, about 5 minutes. Stir in cooked pasta, water and half of the grated cheese. When dish is heated through, adjust seasonings and add salt and pepper to taste, then transfer to a large serving bowl, sprinkle with toasted bread crumbs and the rest of the cheese. Serve immediately.

Curried Cauliflower
(Serves 4)
Note: Make this a mild dish or a spicy one depending on the type of curry powder you use.

3 cups cauliflower florets, steamed or blanched until fork-tender but still firm
1 tablespoon grapeseed or canola oil, plus cooking spray as needed
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
½ cup carrots, thinly sliced
½ cup celery, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons curry powder (or to taste)
2 cups canned, diced tomatoes, drained
½ cup water
1 15-ounce can chick peas, drained and rinsed
½ cup regular or golden raisins
½ cup Major Grey chutney, or more to taste
½ cup fat-free half and half or light coconut milk
¼ cup toasted slivered almonds

Heat oil in large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. (Use cooking spray to coat bottom of pan with a thin film of oil, if needed.) Add onion, garlic, carrots and celery and cook, stirring, until vegetables start to become tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in curry powder and blend well into vegetables. Add tomatoes, water, chick peas, chutney and cauliflower and cook, stirring, until mixture is well blended. Cover, reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes or until dish is heated through. Uncover, add half and half or coconut milk. Transfer to a serving bowl, sprinkle with slivered almonds and serve over rice (white or brown).

Farmers Markets -- Findlay on Saturday

The peak of summer's growing season has arrived, so make time in your schedule for visits to farm stands or farm markets for some of the best food you can buy.

Here's a shot of Findlay Market, downtown, taken yesterday morning. I go every Saturday unless we are out of town, and I go early--mostly to avoid the parking lot chaos of later in the day. My husband likes it at noontime, where he eats lunch, talks with the many people he knows who also make Findlay a Saturday lunch destination, and partakes of the wine tasting at Market Wines (a mere $3 for 4 wines).

This time of year, my interest is a cook's interest: great, ultra-fresh, locally grown or produced food. You haven't tasted tomato, or corn, until you try these veggies from a nearby farmer. Also at the market: Blue Oven Breads, artisan loaves in about 10 different varieties; locally produced, grass-fed bison meat, chickens and their eggs, pork and lamb; fresh baked goods ranging from rustic fruit tarts to coffee cakes, full size pies, cookies of all kinds....and lots more.

If downtown Cincinnati is not your scene, I'm sure there are farm-fresh products available closer to your home. Seek them out!

Friday, July 10, 2009

"Food, Inc". is here

Food, Inc. is at the Esquire 1:30, 3:30, 5:30, 7:30 and 9:30. I hope to see it this coming week, if at all possible (not possible this weekend due to other commitments).

Here's a summary about the film, from the movie's website (

In Food, Inc., filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation's food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government's regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA.
Our nation's food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment.
We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, herbicide-resistant soybean seeds, even tomatoes that won't go bad, but we also have new strains of E. coli—the harmful bacteria that causes illness for an estimated 73,000 Americans annually. We are riddled with widespread obesity, particularly among children, and an epidemic level of diabetes among adults.
Featuring interviews with such experts as Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto) along with forward thinking social entrepreneurs like Stonyfield's Gary Hirshberg and Polyface Farms' Joel Salatin, Food, Inc. reveals surprising—and often shocking truths—about what we eat, how it's produced, who we have become as a nation and where we are going from here.

Anyone who gets the chance to see the movie, please post your thoughts!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Loving Cafe, Pleasant Ridge

Had lunch today at a new (since March), organic, vegan restaurant called Loving Cafe. Owned and operated by a group of about a dozen metro Cincinnati foodies, it's on Montgomery Road in Pleasant Ridge.
While some of the offerings might be strange to most people--the green tea with "popcorn undertones" was a little weird even to this lifelong tea drinker--my friend and I were impressed with our lunch.
I had a panini, basically a crunchy grilled sandwich, filled with vegan versions of turkey, cheese and mayo, along with some crunchy coleslaw and banana peppers, and maybe a little too much mustard. Overall though it was a large and satisfying sandie. My friend had a vegan sloppy joe, which I didn't taste but she said was very flavorful, even though "you would not mistake it for meat."
We split a piece of "raw blueberry pie," which we both loved. The filling was fresh blueberries lightly sweetened and mashed into a kind of paste; the crust was flourless, made from crushed pine nuts, cashews and chopped dates. Really yummy!
They're open Tuesday - Saturday from 11 to 8, but closed between 2 and 4. The manager told me that they've gotten a lot of great support from the neighborhood, and that more and more people from all around Cincinnati have found them.
I'll be writing an article for the Enquirer about this resto for the "Under $25" column, probably to run on 7/17.
What might be best about this place is that it is totally sat-fat and cholesterol free, so anyone with health concerns (heart, diabetes, blood pressure, etc.) can basically eat anything on the menu. They have lots of good-looking desserts--all vegan--including several with everyone's favorite ingredient, chocolate.
Check it out, healthy foodies!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Important foodie movie coming to Cincinnati

Beginning on Friday July 10th, the documentary "Food, Inc." starts its run at the Esquire Theatre in Clifton.

Anyone who cares about the health/nutrition/safety of the food his or her family eats should be SURE to see this film.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A blog for food lovers -- who also are health nuts!

Hello, health-oriented foodies!
Along with my friend, Dr. Mary Ann Barnes, I have been writing a column under the pen-name Healthy Foodie for Whole Living Journal (a Cincinnati based, bi-monthly magazine) since 2003. Mary Ann and I also have a website,
We both believe that you can live a life that's dedicated to pleasure and also to health--at the same time. We love to cook, eat, travel, drink wine, garden and spend as much time outdoors as possible.
Mary Ann stays trim in part through her devotion to vegetarian eating. I'm not vegetarian, but I am a dedicated gym-rat and have been for many years.
My favorite cuisine comes from southern France and central Italy--the food of Provence, Nice and Tuscany. After visits to this part of the world, I've tried to duplicate some of the flavors I've enjoyed there. My favorite foods from that region -- and favorites overall -- include fennel, arugula, saffron, tomatoes, bean soups and stews, tuna and of course pasta and olive oil.

Please post your own recipes, healthy eating tips, travel stories and whatever else you would like to on this site.

Pama Mitchell
Cincinnati OH