Monday, January 31, 2011

Thank you, readers

I do so appreciate you. A lot!

Still not quite up to par. Also we're facing a big-deal day in court--literally--on Weds.

Foodie writing will be minimal until that comes and goes. Prayers and good thoughts much appreciated. Thank you.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Back to La Poste

I had the duck and tried a taste of several interesting wines. My friend enjoyed every bite of her lobster special (in photo).

Unfortunately, the rest of my weekend I have been down with a stomach virus. Not much interest in food! I shall return when recovered........

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ten Super-Healthy Foods & ways to enjoy them NOW

Winter might seem like a wasteland when it comes to healthy foods, if only because so many of our warm-weather favorites are not in season. Sure, you can buy tomatoes, berries, fresh corn, cantaloupe, peaches and cherries in the supermarket, but these specimens shipped from the southern hemisphere are pale substitutes for the locally grown bounty of summer.
No need to despair. We still have ready access to these fabulous -- and fabulously healthy -- in-season (or seasonless) goodies.

1. Citrus fruits, especially oranges and grapefruit. My winter breakfasts invariably include a plump & juicy half-grapefruit sprinkled with Splenda. We scarf down several little, easy-to-peel, seedless clementines every day. The vitamin-laden citrus crop from Texas and Florida is one thing I actually look forward to about winter.
2. Spinach is a cool-weather crop and is grown in California and Florida year round. That's not exactly next door for most of us, but much winter produce comes from way farther away. I like spinach raw better than cooked, and my favorite use is instead of lettuce in sandwiches -- just pile it on.
3. Sweet potatoes are just as versatile as their white cousins, and significantly more healthful. The darker the flesh, the more of the antioxidant beta carotene in the veggie, so go for those dark "yams" over the pale ones. I like them best baked in a 350-degree oven (or toaster oven) until they are very tender -- not steamed in a microwave, please. If you must steam or microwave them, try mashing them afterward with a little maple syrup or honey and spices of your choice (such as cumin, cinnamon, or ginger). Cut into chunks, tossed with olive or canola oil and salt/pepper and roasted in a hot (450 degree) oven is also terrific. Eat the peel for even more nutrition.
4. Avocado production from California peaks in winter, and more of those babies are consumed in January and February than any other month. (The reason for that is probably all the guacamole dip being served at Playoff and Super Bowl parties.) Slices of creamy avocado make any sandwich better -- in fact, I prefer to mash it into a paste to spread on the bread. After that, add whatever you want: sliced turkey, leftover chicken pieces, sliced tomatoes (if you can find a decent one), roasted red peppers, grilled eggplant or zucchini -- you get the picture.
5. Eggs have become an increasing part of our diet this winter. As I posted earlier this month, they are a wonderful source of protein, they're inexpensive, and their mineral content is impressive. I'm lazy with eggs and tend to scramble them with seasonings and some leftover veggies (and a little cheese), get a little fancier with an omelet or a frittata. I'm not a fan of hard-boiled eggs, but if you like them, they make another easy and nutritious addition to sandwiches and salads.
6. Broccoli, available year round although locally it's a late spring, early summer crop, is my go-to veggie. We probably have it four times a week, usually steamed and sometimes tossed with a couple tablespoons of one of Trader Joe's tasty tapenades (they come in a jar). It's been called a Vitamin C powerhouse, with just a half-cup of the cooked veggie giving you 80 percent of the RDA for that vitamin. It roasts really well, too; as with so many veggies, roasting brings out a sweetness you are surprised to learn is there.
7. Mushrooms have only recently been recognized for the super-foods that they are. Sauteed with shallots and/or onions and/or leeks, they are meaty and filling. Add 8 ounces to almost any stir-fry, or saute them with onions and sliced peppers to layer over polenta. Yum.
8. Almonds are among the most nutritionally rich nuts, a category of food we should all consider ramping up in our diet. I like whole roasted ones in my oatmeal (along with chopped apple, dried cranberries or golden raisins, cinnamon and soy or skim milk) and sliced ones in my cold cereal (with blueberries or other berries and bananas). They add crunch and healthy fat to salads, and finish rice or other grain dishes with a lovely taste and texture.
9. Lentils or other beans/legumes. Lentil soup is a filling, satisfying lunch or supper. I like to add drained, canned white or kidney beans to chunky tomato sauces to boost the protein content of a vegetarian pasta dish. The minerals, vitamins and fiber in these foods have a long list of nutritional benefits.
10. This is hard -- there are many contenders for the top 10, including blueberries and blackberries (out of season but I confess to buying the South American ones sometimes anyway), wild salmon, grains such as quinoa, brown rice, oatmeal and barley. But I'm going to finish up with peanut butter; make sure it's the unsalted and natural kind with no additives. If you can't give up salt, well, go for it anyway. I don't get fancy with peanut butter -- to tell you the truth, I mostly just eat it smeared thickly on one slice of bread and thinly on the other, then fill with sliced bananas, sliced apple and a drizzle of honey. (This is a major treat.) For a snack with fewer calories, a teaspoon or less on a substantial apple slice is another great way to appreciate peanut butter.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Dinner for 4, even the kids will love

It's the mashed sweet potatoes -- always a hit around our table -- and more sweetness from sauteed shallots that combine to make this a tasty crowd-pleaser. Add a green salad and wine for the grown-ups for a complete and very healthy meal. And it has amazingly few ingredients, always a plus for the busy weeknight cook.

1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into one- to 1 1/2-inch cubes
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 T olive or canola oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 large shallots, or more if you want, peeled and sliced into thin rings
2 T chopped fresh rosemary

  1. Place the sweet potatoes in a large pot. Add enough cold water to cover and bring to a boil.
  2. Add 1 teaspoon salt, reduce heat, and simmer until tender, 14 to 16 minutes. Reserve ¼ cup of the cooking water, drain the sweet potatoes, and return them to the pot. Mash with the reserved cooking water.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Season the chicken with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
  4. Cook the chicken until golden brown and cooked through, 7 to 8 minutes per side. Transfer to plates.
  5. Wipe out the skillet. Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallots, rosemary, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring, until the shallots are tender, 3 to 4 minutes.
  6. Serve the chicken with the potatoes and drizzle with the shallot mixture.
Based on a recipe from Real Simple magazine, Feb. 2010

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Whole grains and good-for-you protein -- a recipe to smack your lips over!

My friend Mary Ann Barnes (an MD with a specialty in nutrition) sent me this recipe that combines whole grains with soy crumbles, and the finished dish tastes great. If you're not a fan of soy, you could substitute chunks of cooked chicken, salmon or shrimp. With the tofu, you have a vegan dish, however, which is great to work into your diet at least a couple times a week.
I also like to add a sprinkle of chopped peanuts or cashews right before serving, which gives you more protein and the healthy fats found in nuts.

Recipe: Asian Salad with Brown Rice, Soy and Snow Peas

(Serves 6)


1 12-ounce package soy crumbles (such as Smart Ground)

3 tablespoons sesame seeds

8 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

8 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

4 tablespoons light soy sauce

2 cups cooked brown rice

8 ounces snow peas, sliced into 1 – 2 inch long pieces

1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced into 1 – 2 inch pieces

1 bunch green onions, chopped, divided (reserving some for garnish).

Lettuce or mixed greens


  1. Crumble soy into a medium bowl. Add sesame seeds, vinegar, sesame oil and soy sauce. Microwave on high for 1 – 1 ½ minutes, stopping to stir once. Add brown rice and allow to sit for 20 minutes.

  1. Meanwhile, place snow peas in a medium bowl and microwave for 1 minute, or until bright green but still crisp.

  1. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients and toss until well blended. Serve on a bed of lettuce or mixed greens and garnish with reserved onions.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Making a difference at the supermarket

This is important news: the world's largest retailer is making a commitment to healthy eating.

Wal-Mart's decision apparently is connected to the First Lady's crusade against childhood obesity.

Hooray for all concerned!

This is an excerpt from a story in the New York Times. Click here to read the whole piece.

Wal-Mart Shifts Strategy to Promote Healthy Foods
WASHINGTON — Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest retailer, will announce a five-year plan on Thursday to make thousands of its packaged foods lower in unhealthy salts, fats and sugars, and to drop prices on fruits and vegetables.
The initiative came out of discussions the company has been having with Michelle Obama, the first lady, who will attend the announcement in Washington and has made healthy eating and reducing childhood obesity the centerpiece of her agenda. Aides say it is the first time Mrs. Obama has thrown her support behind the work of a single company.
The plan, similar to efforts by other companies and to public health initiatives by New York City, sets specific targets for lowering sodium, trans fats and added sugars in a broad array of foods — including rice, soups, canned beans, salad dressings and snacks like potato chips — packaged under the company’s house brand, Great Value.
In interviews previewing the announcement, Wal-Mart and White House officials said the company was also pledging to press its major food suppliers, like Kraft, to follow its example. Wal-Mart does not disclose how much of its sales come from its house brand. But Kraft says about 16 percent of its global sales are through Wal-Mart.
In addition, Wal-Mart will work to eliminate any extra cost to customers for healthy foods made with whole grains, said Leslie Dach, Wal-Mart’s executive vice president for corporate affairs. By lowering prices on fresh fruits and vegetables, Wal-Mart says it will cut into its own profits but hopes to make up for it in sales volume. “This is not about asking the farmers to accept less for their crops,” he said.
The changes will be introduced slowly, over a period of five years, to give the company time to overcome technical hurdles and to give consumers time to adjust to foods’ new taste, Mr. Dach said. “It doesn’t do you any good to have healthy food if people don’t eat it.”
Wal-Mart is hardly the first company to take such steps; ConAgra Foods, for example, has promised to reduce sodium content in its foods by 20 percent by 2015.
But because Wal-Mart sells more groceries than any other company in the country, and because it is such a large purchaser of foods produced by national suppliers, nutrition experts say the changes could have a big impact on the affordability of healthy food and the health of American families and children.
Some say the company has almost as much power as federal regulators to shape the marketplace.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Dinner at La Poste

Yes, this is becoming my "third place" (after home and work).
For a recent dinner, I had a salad with ricotta cheese, beets and arugula, followed by grilled salmon with a crispy polenta cake (it was small, so I did not have to feel guilty about eating it) lentils, and braised greens. My friend had a duck dish that is likely to be the next entree I'll order.
And of course absolutely wonderful wine choices, a lively young crowd and good company, my friend Thea.
La Poste recently changed its menu and fiddled with the wine list a bit--making return visits all the more likely for me! They now have a website, too.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Delicious Vegetarian Recipe: Polenta with Winter Veggies

Polenta With Braised Root Vegetables

Start the polenta before you begin the braised vegetables. By the time the polenta is ready, you’ll have a wonderful topping and a comforting winter meal.


1 cup polenta

1 scant teaspoon salt

4 cups water

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/4 to 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan (optional)

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

1/2 pound kohlrabi, peeled and cut in small dice

1/2 pound carrots, peeled and cut in small dice

1 medium parsnip, peeled, cored and cut in small dice

1 large or 2 medium garlic cloves, minced

1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice or crushed tomatoes

Pinch of sugar

Salt and freshly ground pepper


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter or oil a 2-quart baking dish. Combine the polenta, salt and water in the baking dish. Place in the oven on a baking sheet. Bake 50 minutes. Stir in the butter, and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes until the polenta is soft and all of the liquid has been absorbed. Stir in the cheese, if using.

2. While the polenta is baking, cook the vegetables. Heat the oil in a large, heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until it begins to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the carrots, kohlrabi and parsnip, and then season with salt. Cook, stirring often, until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, and stir together for about a minute until fragrant. Stir in the tomatoes with their liquid, a pinch of sugar and salt to taste. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, for 15 minutes until the tomatoes are cooked down and fragrant. Add lots of freshly ground pepper, taste and adjust salt, and remove from the heat.

3. Serve the polenta with the vegetables spooned on top.

Yield: Serves four.

(from the New York Times Nutrition & Fitness page)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Weight Loss Strategy: 6 Easy Steps

Good advice from a favorite magazine, Eating Well.
Follow these steps and losing 5, 10 or more pounds we've packed on during cold weather won't be so very hard.
1. Set goals, and be realistic
2. Keep track of what you consume each day (this is so important, and so helpful)
3. Plan your meals
4. Pay attention to portion size
5. Move more! (It doesn't have to be official "exercise," just don't sit on your duff for large portions of the day. Even that makes a difference.)
6. Get support, however and wherever you can find it.

Click here for the full info.

Friday, January 14, 2011

New lunch option

La Poste -- the fine replacement for Tink's on Telford, around the corner from the Esquire Theater -- has been open for weekday lunches the past few weeks. My friend and I had a chance to try it today, and we give it two thumbs up (or should it be four, two for each of us?).

In photographs: the veggie sandwich of the day, a delicious mix of roasted red pepper, sliced avocado, grilled eggplant on rye bread. I had the roasted pear wrapped in prosciutto and stuffed with goat cheese along with a cup of curried lentil soup.
Everything was quite tasty, and we liked the way the menu is set up for lunch.
It's divided into three sections, and no prices are listed for each offering. the sections are "Plates," "Sides" and "Pastries." At the bottom of the page, you get the pricing: a Plate is $9, a Plate and a Side is $12, and add one of the Pastries and it totals $14. We thought it was a very good deal.
The largest selection is in the Plates, and include some amazing choices. Here are a few:
Duck confit mac and cheese with roasted pistachios
Crab cake with citrus aioli , grapefruit and pickled grapes
Flapjack (!) with almond butter and red currant compote
Sausage and white beans with whole grain mustard in a brioche bread bowl
Steak & eggs with root vegetable hash, red pepper hollandaise and a poached egg.

The Sides consisted of a couple of salads, French fries and the soup of the day (my curried lentil was excellent).

We did try one of the Pastries, the cherry and white chocolate bread pudding, but didn't really care for it due to its being drowned in an overly sweet sauce of some kind.

A highlight as always at La Poste is the wine selection. Even at lunch, I would not consider skipping the wine. My favorite this visit was a crisp Spanish white wine called Vina Godeval (godello is the type of wine, something I am not familiar with). I like it so much that I'm going to seek it out retail. According to my web search, it's only about $15 a bottle.

LOVE this restaurant!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Eat this, lose weight (cont.)

One of the weight control superfoods is eggs, which are quite the nutrittional star. They're packed with protein, versatile as can be (good for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert). and perhaps best of all, inexpensive.

Here is an easy recipe for a vegetarian frittata, started on the stovetop and finished under your broiler.

Before you add the eggs, cook your veggies in the same pan that eventually will hold the entire dish. Feel free to experiment with different veggies, and/or add some meat, beans, tofu or seafood before pouring eggs into the pan. This recipe makes plenty for supper for two (with a green veggie and some bread, for instance) or a lovely lunch for four -- add a green salad for the lunch version.

White wine, such as sauvignon blanc, makes a nice accompaniment, too.

Recipe: Vegetable Frittata
(Serves 2 for dinner, 4 for lunch)

2 T olive or canola oil
1 cup red bell pepper, diced (about ½ large pepper)
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 medium zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
¼ cup chopped minced shallot
1 -2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste

2 cups beaten eggs, or a combination of whole eggs and egg whites, or egg substitute (should be about 6 eggs; you may add a couple tablespoons of cold water so that egg mixture makes two cups)
Dash of nutmeg
Dash of cayenne pepper
Pinch of dried herbs of your choice, such as thyme or tarragon
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ to 1 cup shredded Parmesan or other cheese

Heat oil over medium heat in a large oven-proof skillet or frying pan. Add next five ingredients (pepper through garlic) and stir-fry to 5 minutes, until vegetables are softened.
In a large bowl, lightly beat eggs and add spices and herbs along with salt and pepper.
Preheat broiler, and increase heat under frying pan to medium- high. Add egg mixture to pan and let eggs cook on the bottom. Do not stir or shake the pan. Sprinkle evenly with the cheese.
When eggs are beginning to set – no more than 3-4 minutes – transfer pan into preheated oven and broil for a few minutes until eggs have completely set and the top of the frittata is just beginning to brown.
Remove from oven and set on stove to cool slightly. Cut into wedges and serve.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Five Commandments for Better Eating (from "the Minimalist" Mark Bittman)

Widely published food writer Mark Bittman seems to be everywhere. I read his "Minimalist" column in the Dining section of the NY Times avidly; he is great at creating delicious recipes with a few well chosen ingredients.
In last month's Bon Appetit, he wrote about how he turned his life around a couple of years ago by figuring out how to eat more healthfully and lose quite a few extra pounds that had crept up on him as he ate his way through too many deluxe meals. Here's a link to the article.
His five rules "to transform your food life" are:

1. Go (mostly) vegan. Until dinner, Bittman eats almost no animal products and absolutely no processed foods at all.
2. Minimize the meat. He has "meat or fish many nights, but in smaller amounts" than he used to. Once in awhile, he'll indulge in a steak. "Wine is strictly encouraged. Dessert is most definitely allowed."
3. Weigh it out. He keeps an eye on his weight and when the scales go in the wrong direction, he gets more strict for a few days.
4. Cut yourself some slack. Don't beat yourself up over a lapse. It's the big picture that counts.
5. Make it your own. "Figure out what works for you."

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Eat this, lose weight

Forget starvation -- you will just keep yo-yoing. To lose weight, you have to eat. But eating the right foods is the ticket. Here's a list of 11 foods that will fill your tummy, be good to your heart, and help those pounds melt away.

  1. Yogurt (buy plain nonfat or lowfat and add your own flavors, such as vanilla extract and Splenda)

  2. Eggs

  3. Pistachios (all nuts are the healthy foodie's friend!)

  4. Grapefruit (in season now, and delicious)

  5. Avocado (healthy fats!)

  6. Mushrooms

  7. Olive oil (the foundation of the Mediterranean diet)

  8. Whole grains (buy whole wheat bread)

  9. Red pepper (we're talking cayenne here -- heat up your soups with a dash)

  10. Fava beans (again, any beans are our friends)

  11. Brown rice (yes it's a whole grain, but an especially good one; buy it frozen in microwave bags that cook in 3 minutes)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

January: a passing nod to healthy eating

It slays me every year to follow the media focus on healthy eating in January -- two weeks at the most where there are dozens of stories in print and on television about how to clean up your act -- and lose holiday pounds, of course -- in the New Year.

If you notice the coupon inserts in the Sunday papers, 90 percent of the time the deals are for unhealthy processed crap that I would not have in our house. But on the first Sunday of the year -- and ONLY then -- food manufacturers pay lip service (so to speak) to a health orientation and offer discount coupons on more healthful products.

But before long they'll be back to their old ways, with coupons for sodium and fat laden "snack foods" to accompany your football playoff and Super Bowl Sundays.

Gag me.

Well here's a lovely recipe from this week's New York Times health column. Enjoy!

Recipe: Linguine with Red Clam Sauce (lightened)
Makes 4 servings


32 littleneck or cherrystone clams, cleaned and rinsed

2 large garlic cloves, minced, plus one crushed

1/2 cup white wine

1 teaspoon red chili flakes (or more, to taste)

2 T olive oil

1 14-ounce can chopped tomatoes, with juice

Salt and pepper, to taste

3/4 pound dried linguine

1/4 cup chopped parsley


In a large skillet over medium heat, add crushed garlic, white wine and chili flakes. Bring to a boil, and add clams. Cover and cook, shaking pan, until clams open, about 4 minutes.

Remove pan from heat and take clams from the pan with tongs. When cool, remove clams from their shells and coarsely chop. Strain remaining pan juices through a coffee filter or cheesecloth-lined strainer (to remove any sand).

Heat olive oil in the same pan over medium-high heat. Add minced garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes with juice and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often, until pan juices cook out somewhat. Add broth from the clams and bring to a simmer. Add clams, salt and pepper and reduce heat to low while you cook the pasta.

Cook pasta just until it's al dente in boiling salted water. Drain and add to the pan with clams mixture, Stir in parsley, toss well and serve.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

World's Best Diet, Hands Down

You know what I mean, right? The Mediterranean Diet is the healthiest (and yummiest) in the world. It's not a "diet diet," meaning something you do for a short period to drop pounds. It's an eating plan for life. And if you can follow this plan, over time you WILL become slimmer and in better health. You'll feel fewer hunger pangs -- because you are eating nutrient-rich foods -- and have more energy.
But you probably won't be able to succeed with this plan unless you cook some of your own meals. Fast food and the Mediterranean diet don't go together very well, nor does restaurant dining (alas -- I love to eat at nice restaurants!).
Health wise, this diet, loaded with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats and proteins, not only keeps your weight down but also is great for your heart, blood pressure, and blood sugar. You'll avoid obesity, heart disease and diabetes if you follow this wonderful and delicious plan. Some research also suggests this diet can ward off dementia as we age.

Here is one of my favorite Middle Eastern style recipes to get you started -- easy as pie, and taste great.

RECIPE: Couscous Salad with Orange and Olives Serves 4-6

  • 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat couscous
  • 1/4 cup orange juice concentrate, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped black olives, (4 scallions)
  • 1/4 cup chopped pitted Kalamata olives, (12 olives)
  • 1 navel orange, peeled, sectioned and diced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  1. Stir together couscous, orange juice concentrate, oil, mustard, thyme, orange zest and salt in a large bowl. Stir in boiling water, cover and set aside until the liquid has been absorbed, about 5 minutes.
  2. Fluff the couscous with a fork. Add parsley, scallions, olives, diced orange and lemon juice; toss to blend. Season with pepper.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

How to keep those resolutions

Made any for 2011?
My only goal for this year is to make it a significant improvement over 2010 in every way possible.
According to a study reported by Real Age, and perhaps counter-intuitively, it might actually be easier to accomplish a whole list of resolutions at the same time, rather than one at a time.
Here's some advice:

Boost Your Success
Want to lose weight? Cut back on ice cream? Walk more? Cook healthier meals? We all know that making resolutions to change for the better is one thing, but keeping those resolutions is quite another. Here are a few more ways to help tip the scales in your favor:

4 Make-It-Happen Tools

  • Get a diet/exercise buddy to help keep you on task.
  • Look up healthier versions of your favorite foods in the RealAge Recipe Finder.
  • Spend more time in the sack.
  • Work on relaxing more.