We just returned from a long weekend in western North Carolina, mostly for a family gathering in a small town where my recently deceased mother lived for 40 years. We also spent a night in one of our fave small cities, Asheville (NC). I'll write soon about a culinary note or two from that town, and more....
I'm making this one at home a lot these days: the SIDECAR. Traditional recipes use brandy and cointreau, but I take it up a notch and substitute cognac and Grand Marnier. Either way, it's a delectable treat while cooking dinner, or just sitting on my front porch listening to the birdies sing.
SIDECAR (makes one cocktail; can be doubled):
Fill a quarter-cup measure about two-thirds full with the brandy or cognac. Fill it up with cointreau or Grand Marnier.
Pour this into a cocktail shaker with ice.
Add the juice of 1/.2 large lemon and ounces of simple syrup.
Shake well and strain into a glass filled with fresh ice.
Garnish with a slice of fresh orange.
The buzz around Clifton and Northside is getting really loud: La Poste's baby sister restaurant will soon open in the spot vacated a couple of years ago by Slim's.
They've been shooting for an opening in time for Cinco de Mayo (May 5th), which is on the very near horizon.
Here's a photo of the head chef, as well as a rendition of what the interior might look like.
More info coming soon....
This colorful dish fills all the requirements for what you need to bring to your next dinner party or other potluck affair. It only needs a few ingredients and so is easy to make; tastes good hot, room temperature or from the fridge; healthy, pretty to look at, and filling; leftovers taste great whether you leave them at the party or take 'em home with you.
RECIPE: Bow-tie pasta with broccoli and grape tomatoes
1 box bow-tie or penne pasta, cooked according to package directions until al dente
1 bunch of broccoli, florets and tender part of the stems cut into bite-size pieces
3 T olive oil
2 packages grape or cherry tomatoes, left whole if larger than 1 1/2 inch, sliced in half otherwise
1-2 T minced garlic
1/4 cup prepared pesto
Salt and pepper, to taste
For serving: grated cheese
A couple of minutes after you've put the pasta in boiling water, add the broccoli. Drain when pasta is cooked to al dente (not mushy), and set aside.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add tomatoes and garlic, stir-frying until tomatoes start to soften, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat, add pesto, and stir well.
Season with salt and pepper; add pasta/broccoli mixture and check seasonings, adding more salt and pepper to taste.
From fat-free ranch dressing (dipped in the truly healthy raw veggies) to granola, here's a list of 10 Snacks You Thought Were Healthy (but really aren't). Thanks to Bon Appetit for this one.
1. Granola In small doses, granola is super satisfying and can provide many health benefits (it's high in fiber and unsaturated fats, which lower cholesterol). But add in excess sugar and chow down portions that could feed three people, and this iconic hippie-friendly snack isn't so wholesome anymore. Look for brands that are low in sugar like 18 Rabbits, artisanal mixes sold at your nearest farmers market, or make your own, and keep in mind that a 1/2 cup serving averages about 200-250 calories.
2. Smoothies or Yogurt Drinks. Sugar bombs strike again. The typical bottled yogurt drink you'll find on grocery shelves (organic or not), contains about 40 grams of sugar. (That's 10 teaspoons!) To put that in perspective, a healthy adult's entire day's recommendation of sugar is 48 grams. Grab an "all-natural" fruit smoothie for lunch and you might be downing upwards of 500 calories. Ditch the extraneous sugar and calories and make a shake or smoothie at home using fresh or frozen fruit and a touch of honey for sweetness.
3. Bran Muffins. High in fiber yes, but also potentially way too high in fat, sugar, preservatives (if they're pre-packaged) and calories (if they're the size of a softball). Let's be honest, oftentimes they're essentially a piece of cake in a muffin cup. Go retro and think back to muffins like your grandmother might have made, which were probably about 1/3 of the size.
4. Whole Wheat Wraps. They might sound high-and-mighty in terms of health value, but whole wheat wraps can be deceiving depending on the brand. Many skimp on the fiber—actually, many brands have virtually nil—and add up to nearly 300 calories...and that's before the turkey, avocado and cheese. Look for wraps with at least four grams of fiber and around 150 calories each.
5. Fat-free or reduced fat cheese. If you're looking to drop a few pounds or eat more healthfully, fat-free or reduced fat cheese may not be your answer. It tends to be less flavorful and satisfying than full-fat cheese, so you have to eat more to feel full, which can translate to overdoing it on calories. A recent Harvard study (viewable here) published in the Annals of Internal Medicine also found that full-fat dairy products, cheese included, may lower the risk of diabetes. So go ahead and eat that beloved gorgonzola or gouda—in small portions.
6. Fat-free salad dressing. These "light" dressings line grocery store shelves, beckoning dieters with a healthy halo of sorts. But they're generally crammed with extra sugar or high fructose corn syrup to make up for flavor, and they are too often missing all the heart-healthy olive oil (or grapeseed, canola, walnut or avocado oil) that makes vinaigrettes both good for you and delicious. Opt for real, full-fat dressings and you'll fill up much faster (likely on less food) with good-for-you fat. Aim for 1 to 2 tablespoons of dressing per serving.
7. Rice cakes. At a mere 60 calories a pop, rice cakes are crunchy, light, and semi-tasty. But at the end of the day, they're also fairly void of any decent nutrients, plus, the favored versions pack in extra sugar. They're essentially empty calories...and most of us can chomp down a whole lot of them (which turns 60 calories into an easy 240 calories). If you love them, make them more filling and nutrient-dense by smearing on some natural almond butter or hummus. Or opt for the crunch of fresh fruit or whole grain crisp bread crackers with some cheese, peanut butter, or hummus.
8. Pretzels. Once a staple of the fat-free diet, pretzels don't add much to the fiber category. Like rice cakes, you're dealing with a snack that's not filling in a satisfying way, and that could lead you to consume too many empty carbs. And while we all love a little salt sometimes, sodium totals can rack up if you're eating a lot of pretzels. Look for oat bran or whole grain pretzels and for a more satisfying snack, stick to a standard serving size (10-15 depending on the brand and size). Dip them in natural peanut butter, hummus, or guacamole.
9. Veggie Burgers. They sound inherently healthy, but frozen veggie burgers can contain more processed filler ingredients and sodium than actual vegetables or beans. Look for low-sodium veggie burgers that have short ingredient lists (with real ingredients that you recognize and can pronounce). Or try to make your own.
10. Diet drinks. Zero calories isn't always a good thing, particularly when diet or sugar-free drinks are loaded with artificial sweeteners. (Not exactly an all-natural, wholesome additive!) Sweeteners may increase sugar or carbohydrate cravings, and if consumed in great quantity, may actually impact weight gain. Instead, choose a naturally sweetened soda (on occasion, it does contain calories), or unsweetened iced tea. Or, have fun making your own iced tea and flavored sodas at home with fresh, seasonal ingredients.
Health products are notorious for making bold claims that are often bold-faced lies, but it doesn't take much for a person to get swept up in the hype of these popular products. Effective marketing strategies, like customer testimonials and word of mouth, help spread the hype and increase sales, but is it well deserved? So many of the health products we've come to trust and love have proven to be, well, pointless, and they may end up costing you more money and worries in the long run.
At least the local foodie blogs (in Cincinnati) have dwindled. People get tired of doing it, I guess. It certainly hasn't brought me riches or fame, and yet I still plug away with postings at least a couple of times a week. This blog started almost three years ago (!) and has never made a dime.
Here is a place to look for other folks who still carry the flag, sharing their passion for all things edible.
Add lots of veggies -- even more than in the recipe below, if you like -- to make this a satisfying while also guilt-free, and kid-friendly, supper.
Recipe: Linguine with Tuna Puttanesca
12 ounces linguine
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1/2 cup roughly chopped kalamata olives
1 28-ounce can San Marzano plum tomatoes
4 basil leaves, torn, plus more for garnish
1 5-ounce can albacore tuna, packed in olive oil
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook linguine until just tender.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until slightly toasted, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the capers and olives and fry 2 more minutes. Crush the tomatoes into the skillet with your hands and reserve the juices. Cook until the tomatoes are slightly dry, about 2 minutes. Add the reserved tomato juices, the basil, and salt to taste and cook until the sauce thickens, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the tuna with its oil, breaking it up with a fork, and season with salt.
Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water, and return it to the pot. Add the sauce and the reserved cooking water and toss. Season with pepper and garnish with more basil.
This was a "contents of my fridge" preparation to go with a nice piece of mahi-mahi, and it turned out so well, I thought it worth sharing. You can't really see the fish in the photo, smothered as it is in a pan full of many tasty vegetables.
It's OK to substitute any other fish for the mahi, or if you prefer, use boneless chicken breast or even a boneless, lean cut of pork.
But it was great with the mahi.
Two 6-ounce fish fillets, sprinkled with salt and pepper
11/2 cups of diced mixed aromatic vegetables (I used celery, onion, and carrots)
1/2 cup sliced leeks
1 cup sliced fresh Brussels sprouts
Handful of thin green beans (haricots verts)
1 cup chicken broth or stock
1/4 mixed fresh herbs of your choice
Salt and pepper to taste
Coat a nonstick frying pan with cooking spray and a little bit of olive or canola oil, and heat pan over medium-high heat. Add fish and saute until brown on each side, about 2-3 minutes total. Remove fish to a small plate, cover and keep warm.
Turn heat under pan down to medium. Add next four ingredients (aromatics through green beans) and stir-fry until veggies begin to tenderize, about 5 minutes. Add a little but of stock at a time to keep the veggies moist. Throw in the herbs, salt and pepper, add fish back to pan, cover and reduce heat to low.
Serve when the veggies are at the level of doneness that you like and the fish is heated through-- probably just another 2-4 minutes.
What could say springtime better than strawberries and rhubarb? Try these fruit bars and please everyone you might be feeding this weekend.
Recipe: Fruit Bars with Strawberries and Rhubarb Makes 12-18 bars, depending on the size of your cut
1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds or hazelnuts) or old-fashioned rolled oats, divided
3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour (see Note)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3 cups diced strawberries (fresh or frozen), divided
3 cups diced fresh rhubarb, divided
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
To prepare crust: Combine 3/4 cup nuts (or oats), whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar and salt in a food processor; pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Add butter; pulse until well incorporated.
Whisk egg, oil, 1 teaspoon vanilla and almond extract in a small bowl. With the motor running, add the mixture to the food processor. Process, then pulse, scraping down the sides, if necessary, until the mixture begins to clump, 30 to 45 seconds (it will look crumbly). Measure out 1/2 cup of the mixture and combine in a bowl with the remaining 1/4 cup chopped nuts (or oats). Set aside for the topping.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Generously coat a 9-by-13-inch bakingdish with cooking spray.
To prepare fruit filling & assemble bars: Combine 2 cups strawberries, 2 cups rhubarb, orange juice, sugar and cornstarch in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is very thick, 4 to 5 minutes. (It may take up to 10 minutes to get a thick result if you start with frozen fruit.) Stir in the remaining 1 cup strawberries and 1 cup rhubarb and 1 teaspoon vanilla.
Transfer the dough to the prepared baking dish. Spread evenly and press firmly into the bottom to form a crust. Spread the fruit filling over the crust. Sprinkle the reserved topping over the filling.
Bake the bars for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350° and bake until the crust and topping are lightly brown, 25 to 30 minutes more. Let cool completely before cutting into bars, at least 1 1/2 hours.
Want to "fight the effects of sitting all day?"
Check out this article, "22 Painless Ways" to do just that.
Ideas include stretches and exercises you can do at your desk or near it; improving the ergonomics of your chair, desk, keyboard or footrest; health habits during your home life that can make you feel better all day long; and other good suggestions.
We had a very fun family dinner this weekend at Rookwood Restaurant in Mt. Adams. It's always a pleasant experience, not the least thanks to some delicious craft cocktails and the house-made tonic that takes any gin & tonic up a few notches.
Our favorite experience there, however, is to eat on the two-level deck overlooking the city. Not only is there a separate bar but (even better) the outdoor, charcoal grill puts out some of the yummiest burgers in the city.
No service out there yet -- although we took our cocktails and enjoyed them on the top deck picnic table -- but we're informed that the outdoor bar is set to open on 4/12, with the grill to fire up as soon thereafter as weather permits.
When that happens, you can chow down on one of these terrific hamburgers, photographed by yours truly last summer.
This is the yummy hangar steak at Bistro Grace, the Northside restaurant in Honey's old space. The place was almost full for a mid-week dinner, great news for the flegling operation. Click on photo to see their website.
My day job is college professor -- of mass communication and journalism, at the University of Cincinnati. I've probably got a few more years to go, and it's a good gig. Love to travel, cook, dine out, and work out.