Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Seasonal scones -- lightened up

More comfort food made healthier: pumpkin scones.

I love the scones at the Cake Rack at Findlay Market, and none more than their (only once in awhile) pumpkin scones. But their version is a once in awhile treat. How nice to be able to have this lighter take on them, and perhaps eat them for breakfast every day. More good news: they freeze well, so you can put half the batch away for later enjoyment.

Whole-wheat flour, lowfat buttermilk and a judicious amount of butter makes this a healthy-foodie style scone.

Recipe: Pumpkin-Ginger Scones

(Makes 12)


1 cup whole-wheat flour

3/4 cup regular flour

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

4 T cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1/2 cup canned pumpkin (not seasoned)

1/4 cup lowfat buttermilk

2 T maple syrup

1/2 cup chopped candied ginger


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Sift together the first five ingredients, through baking soda. Place in the bowl of a food processor, add butter, and pulse a few times until mixture is the consistency of coarse cornmeal.

In a separate bowl, beat the pumpkin, buttermilk, and maple syrup. Scrape into the food processor with the dry ingredients. Add candied ginger and process until the dough is mixed.

Scrape onto a lightly floured surface and shape the dough into a square about 3/4-inch thick.

Cut into triangles, 12 in all.

Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment and bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until lightly browned.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Avoiding the (inevitable?) dreaded HOLIDAY WEIGHT GAIN

We're into the thick of it now -- and I can already feel the thickening around my middle, too. I sure don't want to wake up on January 1st with extra pounds, and so I try to look at the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve as a time to be as vigilant as possible about what goes into my mouth -- and of course the calories burned in exercise.

Here are eight proven strategies for avoiding packing on weight during the holidays.

1. EXERCISE more faithfully than ever. If you usually walk, run or work out three times a week, increase it to five. Or if your workout time is about 30 minutes minimum, up that to 45 minutes. How? Use your imagination. Park as far away from the mall entrance as possible and hoof it, and come back with your packages a couple of times at least. Take the stairs, no elevators. Hire a personal trainer. It can be done!

2. EAT FRUITS AND VEGGIES. Count up your servings and make sure you have at least 6-8 per day. This isn't hard either, just remember to have a couple of servings of fruit for breakfast daily and at least one kind of veggie at both lunch and dinner, and you're mostly there.

3. LIMIT YOUR TREATS. No way we're going to pass up all the special goodies that pass before us this time of year. But how about allowing yourself one treat a day? And keep it to one cookie, one piece of fudge, a small piece of pie, etc. -- not a binge.

4. DON'T GO PARTYING HUNGRY. Whether it's a house party or a night out clubbing/dining with your friends and family, eat something before you go. This is easy, too. Carry cereal bars in your purse or car, or a small baggie of mixed nuts. Those are somewhat filling and generally healthy, and will cut your appetite for the high-calorie stuff you'll encounter.

5. CHOOSE CAREFULLY AT THE BUFFET TABLE. Use a small plate, avoid anything that looks greasy, fried, or floating in mayo or cream. Go for those veggies. If it's a potluck, make your contribution a tasty but healthy vegetable dish or fruit salad, and eat lots of it yourself. Over the next couple of weeks, I'll post some of my favorite potluck recipes.

6. PLAN AHEAD TO AVOID TEMPTATION. Here I'm thinking about bringing treats to work and passing them around, or letting yourself eat everything anyone offers you. Pop a stick of sugarless gum in your mouth before you walk into your office, for instance, if you're pretty sure there'll be holiday goodies in there to tempt you. I am amazed at how well gum can make me uninterested in food, for a few minutes at least. Sometimes that's all it takes.

7. FOCUS ON THE PEOPLE YOU'RE WITH. Step away from the food and drink tables and chat up the folks around you.

8. JUST SAY NO, BUT NICELY. Learn to politely refuse extra helpings or more than you know you should eat. They'll get over it.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Cooking with leftover wine

Did you open too many bottles this weekend that didn't quite get finished? Were some of them brought by guests who didn't know how to select a decent wine? Rather than dump it down the drain, Food & Wine has some ideas for cooking with leftover Thanksgiving Weekend wine.
For instance, the recipe for Poached Salmon with Corn and White Wine-Butter Sauce can be a healthy foodie winner if you just substitute canola or olive oil for the butter, or at least for part of the butter.
You poach the salmon -- cook it very gently -- in a wine-infused broth. Corn, shallots and zucchini add to the health profile of this tasty dish. Click here for a link to the recipe.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Quick test of heart health

Whether you overdid it just a litle, a moderate amount, or a whole lot yesterday (Thanksgiving), your heart probably dealt with a heavier than usual load of saturated fat.

Here's a surprising (to me) way to test how well your cardio system is working: try to touch your toes.

A new study suggests that whether or not you can touch your toes (especially as you get older) might reveal something important about your heart, and about how stiff the arteries are that supply your heart's blood.

Somehow -- and researchers aren't sure about the reasons for the connection -- flexibility in your muscles also correlates with flexibility in your blood vessels.

For more details on why flexibility is so crucial to heart health, click here

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Surviving Thanksgiving Day, Healthy Foodie Style

Next Thursday, millions of Americans will consume literally thousands of calories, overeating to the point of feeling ill. For those of us so blessed with material abundance, the meal on Thanksgiving is the holiday season's greatest health challenge. How to cope? Here are some healthy-foodie ideas for a Thanksgiving without guilt.

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. It can be before noon, while the turkey is in the oven, or during half-time if you're involved in watching football. Find the time!
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 at TG), 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).

We have so much to be grateful for, including the amazing bounty that makes not eating too much such a concern. On Thanksgiving Day, let's appreciate the love in our lives, our family and friends, the pleasure of sharing this wonderful meal--and eat mindfully while we're at it.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Wine Guy Dining -- Not So Much

We ate a light dinner Saturday night at the new Wine Guy Wine Shop, Wine Bar and Bistro in Rookwood Commons, Hyde Park/Norwood. Based on this one visit and an earlier browse of the wine shop half of things, my initial impression is that the wine shop might be the best part of the operation.
While the place was being renovated and readied for opening, I had perused the posted wine and food menus, and frankly was rather underwhelmed, especially by the wine choices. While I was thrilled that someplace in Cincinnati finally was going to offer a selection of wine flights, so many of the offerings are rather boring, widely available and unadventurous choices. Click here to read the wine menu.
I ended up with a glass of the Firehouse Red from the red wine flight, something I hadn't drank before, and it was fine. But none of the flights did anything for me. That could just be me, but I predict that this is not going to be a destination for the area's wine cognoscenti, who'd be better off schlepping out to Milford to 20 Brix or checking in at Clifton's new La Poste, where even though our newspaper's dining critic was not wild about the food, sommelier Bryant Philips has made it an exciting wine venue.
Back to Wine Guy: my daughter's risotto of the day (top photo) was supposed to have chicken, mushrooms and several other ingredients but it was mostly rice. Her husband and I both ordered a nice-sounding Osso Bucco ravioli (tapas portion for me, second photo), and while it was tasty enough, it was overpriced IMHO.
The only house offering was a puny plate of a very few pita triangles with a mound of flavored butter -- any one of us could have polished off the plate, no problem. Although our server asked when our main food came if we wanted more pita, it was kind of too late for the bread to do our hunger much good.
The place is one very large and very noisy room, and it was hard to hear my companions across the table from me.
On the plus side, the wine shop is attractively designed and organized in a customer-friendly way, and I did notice a few interesting and unusual bottles here and there.
Time will tell whether they do well here; apparently, their Columbus area locations have been successful, and Hyde Park is probably their best bet in our area.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Curried Cauliflower and Squash

I made this for dinner, with brown rice and naan bread, the other night. We had plenty left over to go as a veggie side later in the week.
My husband said it was scrumptious!

Recipe: Curried Cauliflower and Butternut Squash Serves 4 as a main dish, 6-8 as a side
3 T canola oil
1 cup sliced celery
1 cup sliced carrots
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
1 head cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets
2 cups cubed butternut squash, steamed or microwaved until not quite tender
2 T curry powder, or more to taste
1 cup water
1 14-ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup bottled mango chutney
1/4 cup sliced nuts (preferably cashews, peanuts, or pumpkin seeds)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oil in a large, deep frying pan over medium-high heat.
Add celery, carrots, garlic and onion and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes until veggies begin to soften. Add cauliflower and stir-fry for about 5 minutes, until cauliflower starts to brown just a little. Add squash and stir well.
Stir in curry powder, water and tomatoes. Cover the pan and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for 5 minutes, remove cover and test cauliflower for tenderness. When it's the way you like it -- not too soft -- stir in raisins, chutney and nuts.
Season with salt and pepper, and add a little cayenne pepper if you like more spiciness. You can also add more water if too much liquid has cooked out.
Serve as is, or over rice.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Keeping holiday pounds off

Today's Cincinnati Enquirer has a comprehensive story in the Health & Fitness section (a couple of pages, really, but a good addition to the Thursday newspaper nonetheless) about how to avoid packing on weight over the holidays.

Here are a few highlights, or click on the newspaper name above to read the whole article.

1. Don't go to holiday parties hungry

2. Drink plenty of water and other caffeine-free, alcohol-free beverages

3. Substitute healthier ingredients in favorite holiday recipes

4. Wear form-fitting clothes (especially around the waist) to holiday parties to help discourage over-indulgence
5. Eat a healthy breakfast every day, no exceptions
6. Exercise!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Stuffing rules!

It's countdown time -- just a week until the 3,000-calorie (or more) meal, our big national blowout, Thanksgiving Day. We've all been around that table enough times to know which foods to eat in small amounts, and which to fill our plates with, right?
One of my favorite part of this meal is the stuffing -- or dressing, in Southern parlance. There are so many wonderful variations on this bread-based dish, you never have to have the same one twice. Unless that is, you have a recipe that just can't be beat.
I like to try all kinds of stuffing recipes, and the good news is, this is probably not the fattiest part of your meal. Keep the oil, butter, eggs and meat (such as sausage) to a minimum and stuffing should be a not-too-guilty pleasure.

This one has a relatively short ingredient list and yet combines sweet and savory while packing in some really healthful stuff. Give it a try!

Recipe: Mushroom and Pear Stuffing Serves 8

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 10 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 8 large sage leaves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 demi whole-wheat baguette (about 8 oz), cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 large Anjou or Bartlett pear, cored and cubed
  • 1/4 cup pitted prunes, chopped
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup pomegranate juice

  • Instructions:

    Heat oven to 350°F. Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Cook mushrooms, celery, sage and thyme, stirring often, until mushrooms and celery soften, 6 to 8 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl; add baguette cubes, pear, prunes, broth and juice. Mix well and let rest until bread absorbs liquid. Transfer to an 8" x 8" baking dish; cover with foil. Bake 40 minutes, remove foil and bake until stuffing puffs up, about 5 minutes.

    Source: Epicurious

    Monday, November 15, 2010

    Fight winter pounds with this food

    Weight gain and winter go together like -- what, peas and carrots? We're less active in these cold, dark times and on top of that, we crave so-called comfort foods.
    One type of food to keep on your menu is winter squash. It's filling, versatile (amazing number of ways you can prepare the stuff), and best of all, delicious.

    Here's some info about squash from Real Age, and then scroll down for a recipe.

    Research shows that getting more vegetable fiber into the diet could help prevent an expanding waist. It may even help people drop a few pounds. So go ahead -- eat up.

    Slimming Squash
    Be it butternut, acorn, or delicata, winter squash has a lot going for it nutritionally, writes Jonny Bowden in his book The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. Squash is high not only in fiber -- about 6 grams of fiber per cup of mash -- but also in water. That means you can eat lots and feel full without going overboard on calories. Just hold the butter and brown sugar, of course.

    More to Love
    Whole grains are another good source of weight-controlling fiber. So why not make it a two-for-one by combining roasted squash with a toasty high-fiber grain like bulgur or quinoa. Try this EatingWell recipe that combines squash and whole grains in one delicious fills-you-up-without-fattening-you-up dish.

    Recipe: Butternut Squash and Barley Pilaf Serves 4-6

    1 T olive or canola oil
    1 medium onion, chopped
    1 14-ounce can chicken or vegetable broth/stock
    1 3/4 cups water
    1 cup pearl barley
    2 cups peeled butternut squash, cut into 1-inch cubes
    1/3 cup chopped parsley
    1 teaspoon lemon zest
    1 garlic clove, minced
    Salt and pepper to taste

    Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add broth, water, barley and squash; bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the barley and squash are tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 45 minutes. Add parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper; mix gently. Serve.

    Saturday, November 13, 2010

    Give thanks with these wines

    Everything from sparklers to fruity whites and dryer reds ... from Food & Wine. All are great values, and most should be easy to locate. Perfect for your Thanksgiving Dinner, and/or the entire holiday period.


    NV Domaine Ste Michelle Blanc de Blancs ($12)

    This pear-scented wine has a clean finish that makes it ideal with appetizers and main courses.

    NV Adami Garbèl Prosecco ($15)

    Italian producer Adami’s appley bottling is drier than many other Proseccos, making it particularly refreshing.


    2008 Château Guiot ($11)

    François and Sylvia Cornut grow cherries as well as grapes, and that ripe fruit seems to have lent its aroma to this lovely Southern French rosé.

    2008 Domaine de la Mordorée ($15)

    Mordorée is known for its expensive Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but the estate also produces terrific affordable wines. One is this wild-strawberry-flavored, lightly smoky dry rosé.


    2008 Acrobat Pinot Gris ($12)

    This value bottling is peachy, zesty and lush -- an upgrade for pinot grigio fans.

    2008 Allan Scott Sauvignon Blanc ($12)

    Less peppery and sharp than many NZ Sauvignon Blancs, this snappy white from the country’s Marlborough region has delicious pineapple and melon notes.

    2008 Bodegas Montecillo Verdemar Albariño ($14)

    This venerable Rioja producer has branched out into Spain’s far-northwest Rías Baixas region to create this bright white. It’s chalky, citrusy and very easy to drink.


    2007 Heron Pinot Noir ($13)

    Wine producer Laely Heron has made a specialty of finding good vineyards in unexpected locations around the world. The result is wines like this chocolate-cherry Pinot, from the foothills of France’s Pyrenees.

    2006 Ruffino Il Ducale ($18)

    This Tuscan red has all the hallmarks of the region: black-cherry fruit, a firm structure and notes that recall fragrant dried herbs.

    2008 Seven Terraces Pinot Noir ($20)

    Acclaimed New Zealand winery Foxes Island Wines makes pricey bottlings as well as this impressive, affordable red. The wine’s svelte black-raspberry fruit gains complexity from spice and tobacco notes.

    Friday, November 12, 2010

    Lunch downtown

    While we're still enjoying "Indian summer," it's a good time to break up the routine and go out to lunch. That worked great for me on Veterans Day -- a holiday from my day job -- and it also happened to be a friend's birthday.
    We celebrated by going downtown and getting a window table overlooking Fountain Square -- Cincinnati's central gathering place, for readers from elsewhere -- at Palomino's. While it may not be my favorite downtown restaurant for the food and/or service, the second-floor setting can't be beat in our town.
    For some reason, service was excruciatingly slow. But we enjoyed the meal and the togetherness nonetheless. I had a Ginger Cooler cocktail, with fresh ginger, lime juice, Captain Morgan spiced rum and one other ingredient I forgot to record. It was quite good and I had to resist (successfully) going for a second one.
    Food wise, I ordered the prosciutto and arugula flatbread, asking for extra arugula and light cheese. It was tasty if a little too salty thanks to the prosciutto. My friends had a large chicken salad and a soup/salad combo.
    One more day of great weather here -- get out and enjoy it, everyone!

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    Thanksgiving Wine Suggestions: 5 easy to find bottles that will complement your meal

    What to drink with our biggest meal of the year, Thanksgiving Dinner? We don't need to worry about what will go with turkey, of course -- the main course is so bland that almost anything will do. The real question is, how do we complement all those other flavors crowding our table (and our plates)?

    Here's advice from a writer at Epicurious, one of my favorite foodie websites. Suggestions are based on whether your side dishes tend toward sweetness (sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, ambrosia), herbal (stuffing, veggies) or perhaps Southwestern.

    Sweet Flavor Profiles:

    Paul Hobbs Winery CrossBarn Chardonnay
    Sonoma Coast 2009

    (about $25)

    When it comes to serving a dry wine with sweeter recipes, look for fruit flavor without a lot of oak or austere acidity. Paul Hobbs' CrossBarn Chardonnay Sonoma Coast is ripe in a pure, unadulterated way, with strong apple and pear flavors. It's the kind of heavenly simplicity that can only be achieved by an experienced hand like Hobbs, a Sonoma legend. And it's the perfect match for those of us who love crispy brown turkey skin.

    Herbal Flavor Profiles:

    Montinore Estate Reserve Pinot Noir 2008

    (about $24)

    Herbs get along well with earthy wines, and the Montinore Estate Reserve Pinot Noir, made in Oregon's famed Willamette Valley, has a touch of the woods about it. It also has subtle sandalwood and lavender accents, surrounding a core of fresh cherry. This is an elegant, biodynamically farmed wine that's more subdued than most American Pinots. Those of you avoiding highly alcoholic wines will be happy to see the figure 13.6 percent on the label—a food-friendly percentage, indeed.

    Southwestern Flavor Profiles:

    Beckmen Purisima Mountain Vineyard
    Grenache Rosé 2009

    (about $18)

    Now hear this: Rosé isn't just for summer. Its in-between status—not quite a red, not quite a white—is exactly what makes it a go-to for tricky meals like Thanksgiving. It's also a classic match for spicy foods of all kinds. The Beckmen Purisima Mountain Vineyard Grenache Rosé—courtesy of brothers Tom and Steve Beckmen of the Central Coast's Santa Ynez Valley—has the dry elegance of a Provençal rosé, with typical flowers on the nose and a unique, totally beguiling watermelon taste.

    Click here to read about the other suggested wines.

    Tuesday, November 9, 2010

    Make-ahead TG side: Butternut Squash Ratatouille

    I've used this recipe for years, but only recently has it become more easily doable, thanks to pre-peeled, seeded and cut butternut squash being available in stores.
    It's one of my staple purchases at Trader Joe's, and I know other supermarkets also carry this great convenience food in their fresh produce sections.
    You can make this delicious casserole a day or two ahead and keep it refrigerated, reheating in your oven after removing the turkey. It's also a great addition to a potluck party because it tastes just as good at room temperature as it does hot.

    This recipe serves 8-10, but you can cut all the ingredients in half if you want to try it for a smaller group.

    Recipe: Butternut Squash Ratatouille

    Flesh from 2 medium butternut squash, cut into approximately 3/4-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
    2 T canola oil
    1 cup carrots, diced
    1 cup leeks, diced
    1 cup zucchini, diced
    1 cup apple, diced (leave the peel on, or not -- your choice)
    1/2 cup minced shallots
    1 cup vegetable or chicken stock
    Salt and pepper, to taste

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place the squash in a roasting pan and toss with 1 T of the oil. Roast until just tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.
    Heat the remaining oil in a large skillet. Add the carrots and cook for 3 minutes; add leeks and cook for 2 minutes longer; add zucchini, apples, shallots and roasted squash and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
    Stir in the stock, salt and pepper and simmer until the vegetables are tender but not too soft, about 10-15 minutes.

    Sunday, November 7, 2010

    Comfort food made healthier: Oven-fried Chicken

    My mother and her mother -- Georgia girls -- were expert at frying chicken. Growing up, I had many a meal of the crispy stuff, accompanied by rice with milk gravy, oven-made biscuits and some sort of greens. When I started doing my own cooking, fried chicken was in my repertoire for awhile. But I gave it up quite some time ago, for any number of reasons. The obvious one is of course the calories, but there's also the mess it causes in the kitchen.
    Still, I hate to go through life without having crispy chicken, ever again. This oven version can satisfy my cravings. Use panko bread crumbs, if you have them, or any other variety you choose.
    (Shown served with butternut squash puree and a green veggie.)

    Oven-Fried Lemon Chicken (serves 4)

    4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    Juice and zest of one lemon
    2 T olive oil
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    1 T chopped fresh rosemary
    3/4 cup dry bread crumbs (or panko bread crumbs)
    Salt and pepper
    1 egg, lightly beaten
    Lemon wedges, for serving

    Place chicken between sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap and pound lightly, to flatten slightly.
    Arrange in a shallow dish and sprinkle with the lemon juice.
    Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a small skillet. Add garlic, rosemary and saute, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in bread crumbs and lemon zest, then season with salt and pepper.
    Place egg in a shallow dish. Dip chicken breasts, one at a time, into the egg, then into bread crumb mixture, pressing with your hands so that the crumbs adhere to the chicken.
    Arrange the chicken breasts on a lightly oiled, shallow baking dish.
    Bake in a 400-degree preheated oven for 15 minutes.
    Serve with lemon wedges.

    Saturday, November 6, 2010

    La Poste, Revisited

    Made it back to Clifton's new hot spot last night -- La Poste, the wonderful restaurant that replaced the defunct & (was) missed Tink's. The new incarnation of upscale dining in our 'hood is quickly making the old one (Tink's) a fading memory -- going, going, gone.
    I had a crab cake and the pork tenderloin (pictured), but as upon my first visit the highlight of the evening was the wine pairings offered by sommelier Bryant Philips.
    I only wish I could fit in dinner at La Poste more often!

    Thursday, November 4, 2010

    Pasta you will love!

    The combo of toasted pine nuts and sweet currants adds wonderful flavors to this simple dish, based on pasta (I used orichiette or "little ears", probably misspelled) and cauliflower that's cooked until it's just tender but still al dente. I've substituted raisins for the currants with no ill effects, but the smaller sized fruit works better in terms of taste balance in each bite.

    Pasta with Cauliflower, Currants and Pine Nuts
    Serves 4

    Note: You can omit the anchovies if you prefer, but the ingredient does add depth to the dish. Without the anchovies, it's a vegetarian main course.

    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.

    Tuesday, November 2, 2010

    Easy, delicious dessert

    Pears are in season from now through the mid-winter months. We tend to get lots of pears as Christmas gifts (Harry & David's, you know) and need to figure out how to use a lot of them fast. They're great to eat as is, but when you have more than you really know what to do with, try this tasty dessert, served with lowfat ice cream, frozen yogurt or other creamy (but no-guilt) topping. This amount can feed a crowd, but feel free to cut the ingredients in half to serve to your family.

    Recipe: Pear Crumble
    Serves 10
    1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
    1/2 cup chopped walnuts
    1/2 cup packed brown sugar
    1/3 cup whole-wheat or all-purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    5 tablespoons canola oil


    3 1/2 pounds ripe but firm Anjou pears, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
    1/2 cup pure maple syrup
    1/2 cup raisins
    2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    2 tablespoons lemon juice
    2 teaspoons minced crystallized ginger

    1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
    2. To prepare topping: Combine oats, walnuts, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Drizzle with oil and stir until evenly moist.
    3. To prepare filling: Combine pears, maple syrup, raisins, flour, lemon juice and ginger in a large bowl and mix well. Transfer the mixture to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle the topping over the pears.
    4. Bake the crumble until the pears are tender and the topping is golden, 45 to 50 minutes. Let stand for at least 10 minutes before serving.

    Monday, November 1, 2010

    Making veggies more appealing

    Jane Brody writes a widely-read column about practical health matters for the NY Times. Recently she asked readers to send in their ideas for how to get people to eat more veggies.
    She wrote in a follow-up column that she received more than 600 emails on the topic.

    Here is an excerpt from the column that summarized the responses.

    Focus on Flavor

    Never boil them,” Walter Jacobsen wrote. “Even if they’re frozen, I think they taste much better, are much crunchier, if sautéed in a flavored oil.” A popular refrain: “What’s wrong with a little fat — olive oil or butter — to make vegetables more palatable?” As some noted, if you reduce the meat portion and buttered bread, there’s ample caloric room for some oil or butter — even pancetta or bacon bits — to season the vegetables.

    A very popular idea was a vegetable-rich soup (I used to purée the vegetables my boys rejected on sight), perhaps with tiny meatballs, chicken cubes or seasoned tofu. Consider making a big batch to eat for a few days, perhaps freezing some (labeled and dated) for another day. My lunch the other day was split pea soup that I’d made and frozen in 2008. Beneath it I found turkey and cabbage soup I cooked last year.

    Many readers suggested my own favorite: stir-frying vegetables in a little olive oil seasoned with garlic, onion, shallots or balsamic vinegar and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Another of my favorites: grilling vegetables, which can be done on the stovetop in a ridged grill pan as well as on a barbecue grill.

    Roasting vegetables, either individually or mixed, in the oven or toaster oven was another popular suggestion. Cut the vegetables into approximately equal sizes, toss with olive oil, season with salt and pepper or herbs, and bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until they reach the desired texture.

    Roasted kale crisps for snacks were mentioned often. Margaret P. Mason suggests spreading a single layer of kale pieces on a cookie sheet. Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and bake at 375 to 400 degrees. Turn them after about five minutes, making sure they don’t burn.

    Juiced vegetables were frequently mentioned, too. Chester Chanin thinks restaurants should offer “appealing fresh vegetable juices as a complimentary side drink before the meal arrives.” I’ll drink to that!