Wednesday, June 30, 2010
In my area the best options of the food store "biggies" are Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. Now there are merits and drawbacks to each - Whole Foods is a growing global empire (there was even one nearby when I lived in London) and thus has the resources to offer a wider selection of products, also resulting in generally higher prices a more "corporate feel" to the stores. Whole Foods is stocked will all the amenities of major grocery store chains - fresh produce; full meat, deli, and seafood counters; and an array of excellent prepared foods. Whole Foods may sell overpriced gourmet cheeses, but it's also one of the few places around that carries the hard-to-find items that epicurean foodies are looking for. They also have more specialty products, such as vegan baking ingredients, than Trader Joe's generally has. Whole Foods carries carob chips and many gluten-free baking mixes (not to mention great bulk granola!) as well as a ton of vitamins, probiotics, herbal supplements and such that other grocers lack.
Trader Joe's, on the other hand, has the "crunchy granola" feel of a neighborhood market, branding itself in a whimsical way with colorful walls and remarkably enthusiastic employees. Though Trader Joe's has less produce (and thus lacks the obscure exotic veggie finds), it still carries all the "health-food nut" essentials such as tofu in many varieties and prepackaged items like quinoa and kale. Though Trader Joe's products are limited in comparison to the competing brands at Whole Foods, resulting in fewer flavor choices to choose from in soy yogurt, for example - while Trader Joe's has soy milk, Whole Foods has that and numerous brands of almond milk and rice milk to choose from - Trader Joe's products are high quality. Their frozen food section has a great array of delicious premade meals such as Indian curry and Mexican tamales, and their low fat baked goods are excellent. By far my favorite part of Trader Joe's, I must say, is their dried fruits - from tart cherries to blueberry-golden raisin medleys, TJ's dried fruit is the perfect healthy snack to satisfy the sweet tooth's cravings.
The verdict: go to Whole Foods for lunch, indulging in their delicatessen, and peruse the shelves for a fine cheese find for later. Then stock up at Whole Foods on your basic essentials, and be sure to get some healthy snack foods! Free food samples at both stores. You can't lose.
Monday, June 28, 2010
Friday, June 25, 2010
In Celtic Britain it was taboo to harvest any potatoes before the festival of Lugnasa, and so the event was met with great anticipation. A dish traditionally served on Lugnasa is the colcannon, a potato and cabbage dish of numerous variations. The ritual directed that all members of the family must share the dish or risk offending the agricultural spirit that protects the crop. After the first bite everyone would shout, "Death to the Red Hag!" to drive away the spector of starvation.
The best-named colcannon dish, I think, is rumpledethumps, which uses cabbage, leeks, broccoli and cheddar cheese.
*This bit of epicurean trivia was supplied by Moosewood Restaurant, the famed natural foods restaurant in Ithaca, New York, which is operated by a Collective and has published healthy recipe cookbooks great for vegetarian and vegan lifestyles.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Monday, June 21, 2010
- Vegetable Napoleon: grilled summer squash, zucchini, Portobello mushrooms, tomatoes, carmelized onions on a bed of sauteed spinach with saffron jus
- Grilled shrimp with peach and blueberry salsa
- Spiced pomegranate crusted tuna with grilled corn and asparagus
- Summer squash topped with fresh pesto
- Spinach salad with fresh mango, sunflower seeds, and a shallot-apricot dressing
- Fresh avocado and orange salad with chili lime dressing, topped with sprouts
To welcome in the heat wave, last night for dinner we had Cajun spice-crusted flounder with grilled corn, zucchini and red bell peppers, served out on the back porch of course. Summer is the time to really take advantage of all the fresh local produce in season, and eat it outside!
Friday, June 18, 2010
- Carb boost: granola bars. I recommend Bear Naked, Kashi, or Nature Valley "oats 'n honey" flavor - so much better than Chewy bars.
- Protein: spoonful of peanut butter on banana - the classic combo.
- Energy bars: I prefer Luna and Pria to other brands like Powerbar (which taste chemical-y to me) and urge men not to shy away from trying the products marketed for women - they won't inject you with estrogen, don't worry - I promise they taste good!
- Sugar high: honey sticks are "in" nowadays in the running world as a quick fix for a pre-race sugar surge, but I personally prefer a spoonful of pure maple syrup.
- Hydration plan: seasoned runners develop personal plans for when to hydrate throughout races, when to switch from water to Gatorade, etc. Some are even buying into the energy drink trend and going for caffeinated drinks before shorter road races, but I personally stay away from the coffee and Red Bull since it goes right through me - stick with water.
- Post-race snack: orange slices are my favorite on hot summer days. I avoid heavy dairy after a tiring run and go for the lighter options, such as multigrain Sun Chips and hummus and fresh lemonade. Full meals to follow can range from chicken sandwiches with sprouts to lean fish and brown rice, to replenish and refuel for the next one!
Hungry for a run?
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Thursday, June 10, 2010
1) Make crust with graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar and melted Earth Balance butter. I am never exact with measurements here as I eyeball the quantity - enough to coat the pan (use a springform if you have one) - and mix with melted butter thoroughly to stick properly to the sides. It should be golden and slightly moist to reach optimal crust when baked; too dry and it will flake away. I have used Earth Balance many times and no one ever knows it's not butter!
2) With electric mixer on medium speed, beat approx. 2 1/2 (8 oz.) containers Tofutti cream cheese (the original called for two packages fat free cream cheese and one 1/3 less fat, but I found with the tofu-based consistency this was sufficient) until creamy. Add cup of sugar, dash each of vanilla extract and Grand Marnier, and some Amaretto for extra flavor. I then grated in some orange zest and stirred in about 5 oz. melted white chocolate - the original recipe I referenced calls for 3 oz. but that's not enough in my opinion - not authentically vegan and can be omitted for those going totally dairy-free. Blend until smooth.
3) Add two eggs, one at a time (or egg replacer if desired) - though the non-vegan recipe uses three eggs I found two to be perfect for this cake.
4) I scattered frozen raspberries around the inside of the crust-lined dish and poured the batter over it, so that each piece would have raspberries embedded inside.
5) Bake at 325 degrees for at least an hour - test by jiggling it - in a water bath of about an inch of water in the large pan with the cake set inside. This was my first attempt at the water bath method, as I've made countless cheesecakes without it but was never brave enough to take "the plunge," and I am proud to report that this cake came out really well, with a smooth, perfect top that I let cool for six hours to prevent an ugly crack from forming. Then refrigerate for another night and by the next evening it's ready to serve.
*Note this must be made in advance to achieve classic cheesecake consistency (and it really does, I promise!)
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
- "Fairfield Granola" - based on recipe courtesy of Nigella Lawson, with oats mixed with slivered almonds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and raisins. Secret ingredient: apple sauce! I added bran and substituted maple syrup for brown rice syrup to give it a richer flavor. The verdict: consistency was a bit too sticky. Less syrup next time, I decided.
- My made-up "Blueberry Pumpkin Blast" - started with a base of 2 cups oats and added a pinch of flax, safflower oil, a mix of honey and maple syrup, pumpkin seeds, dried blueberries and tart cherries, and a dash of pumpkin butter to spice it up. Baked for 20 min. at 325 degrees and removed to stir with spatula, mixing in about 1/4 cup of blueberry pomegranate juice (on a whim) to add an extra layer of flavor, and baked 20 min. more. The verdict: should have lined the pan with wax paper! I allowed the granola to cool to the pan and predictably it stuck to the edges.
- Upcoming varieties to try: "Sinful" granola with dried cranberries and dark chocolate pieces, and "Southern style" with brown sugar and pecans.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Friday, June 4, 2010
Breakfast: crepes, of course. Chez Cora is the inexpensive yet tasty chain, or if you want to splurge go to Creperie Chez Suzette in Old Montreal, and enjoy the area's quaint cobblestone streets and French-inspired decor
Coffee and a snack: Cafe Presse on Rue St. Catherine - get a croissant or pain au chocolat
Lunch: bistro fare such as Bistro le Republique - get a croque monsieur or baguette sandwich
Dinner: I highly recommend O Noir, the restaurant where you dine entirely in the dark - it is an experience unlike anything else you've had. More expensive but worth it as a "once in a lifetime" dining experience!
Late-night snack: poutine! the quintessential Canadian junk food, essentially french fries covered in gravy and cheese - you can find this at any fast food place or cheap late-night diner all over the city. It wouldn't be a complete Montreal trip without trying it ... "when in Quebec ..."
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Ways you can "do the right thing" in your own life:
- Eat healthy: farm-grown fresh produce is much more environmentally friendly than manufactured products that only increase pollution and waste
- Recycle: reuse food storage containers and buy eco-friendly products)
- Energy preservation: cook with raw ingredients rather than electric appliances for a change
- Water preservation: don't let that faucet run when washing dishes, to start ...
- Composting: makes excellent natural fertilizer for your garden so that you can grow your own herbs, fruits and vegetables at home - my mother named her compost Seymour (as in the giant plant creature from Little Shop of Horrors)
- Green-friendly disposables: think biodegradable
- Spread the word: let others know how great you feel - not to mention look - after making the lifestyle switch, and they will follow in suit
*Shopping at farmers markets is an easy way to get sustainable, "green-friendly" food, and what better time than summer to Go Slow?
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
For more information visit www.metrocooking.com
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
- Portobello mushrooms: for those who are fur-friendly or watching their cholesterol, instead of the bland store-bought veggie burger, why not grill up a large Portobello mushroom cap? They are actually remarkably juicy and meaty in texture, and like burgers can be served with interesting toppings such as roasted red peppers and mozzarella or goat cheese, or stuffed with spinach and ricotta - the possibilities are endless.
- Seafood: take a break from the red meat and save the steak for another night, and instead grill up some seafood on skewers! Try terayaki salmon skewers with pineapple and green onion, or shrimp (or scallops) in a tequila lime butter, with bell peppers.
- Fruit: this healthy grilled dessert is the perfect alternative to watery popsicles at cook-outs; my personal favorites are grilled pineapples or peaches - served over vanilla ice cream the warm fruit juices mix with the cool to create a delectable yet light treat.
*Grilled peaches served over greens also make an excellent salad, and go nicely with brie and pecans, served with white wine spritzer - a simple and easy dish to entertain with.