Friday, December 30, 2011

Comfort Foods: Crabmeat Crostini with Sriracha Mayonnaise and Toasting Another Happy Year

After a lovely Christmas with my family in Ohio, we came back to New York to enjoy the city with our daughters for the rest of the holiday vacation. After-Christmas shopping, Christmas windows and decorations and the giant tree at Rockefeller Center still hold their magic for all of us.

Last night, we opened a bottle of champagne to toast the end of a great year, and the start of a happy one. I made spicy crabmeat crostini, and they were a perfect accompaniment to the delicious champagne.

Easy to make, serve and eat, the crostini are elegant, rich and delicious. The crab gets an unexpected kick from the sriracha, and the toasty crostini adds crunch to the silky crabmeat pâté. If you are looking to cut down on carbs--you can spoon the spicy crabmeat into endive leaves for a light but crunchy amuse-bouche.

If you are looking for an easy and tasty appetizer to ring in the New Year--this is it. Not that a good glass of champagne needs much to go with it--a toast with loved ones and a grateful nod to all that is good in your life is plenty. Happy New Year!

Crabmeat Crostini with Sriracha Mayonnaise
1/2 pound fresh lump crab meat
2-3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons sriracha sauce (available in Asian grocery/markets)
1 baguette, sliced and toasted
Freshly ground pepper and chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

In a bowl, mix crabmeat, mayonnaise and sriracha with a fork until the sauces are mixed through with the crab. I prefer to keep the crabmeat a little chunky, but more mixing will make the
pâté more smooth. Spoon onto crostini (or into endive leaves for a lighter dish) and garnish with freshly ground pepper and chopped cilantro.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Healing Foods: Persimmon Orange Salad and He Can Cook, Too!

I have often invited my husband to join me in the kitchen to cook. A dashing French gastronome, he has introduced me to many lovely dishes in our years (and travels) together. In the past couple of years, as we both try to take control of our health, he has become a wonderful partner as we peruse recipes, shop for ingredients and discover dishes that are both delicious and nutrient filled.

For Thanksgiving, he came across a recipe in the New York Times that he thought would be a great pairing with our “lighter than years past” meal with friends. It is delicious, and so worth sharing. The refreshing, sweet persimmons and the citrusy sweet/tart oranges are a great combination, and the peppery watercress is a great juxtaposition to fruit’s textures and flavors. We have made it a few times since Thanksgiving, and it is a welcome addition at any dinner. And although making this delicious salad isn't exactly is a treat to have my handsome man joining me in the kitchen!

1 small shallot, minced

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

Salt and pepper

4 tablespoons fruity olive oil

4 navel oranges

4 Fuyu persimmons

1 bunch watercress, optional

Put the shallot and vinegar in a small bowl and macerate 5 minutes. Add a pinch of salt and a little pepper. Whisk in the olive oil.

With a serrated knife, peel the oranges, then slice into 1/2-inch rounds. Arrange the orange slices on a platter. Peel the persimmons, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices or wedges and arrange over the oranges.

The salad can be covered and refrigerated up to 3 hours. Just before serving, whisk the dressing again and drizzle over the fruit. Garnish with watercress sprigs.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Healing Foods: Mushroom Ragout and Renewed Energy

My salt-free eating plan (not a diet!) has had some very tangible results over the past month. My blood pressure has come down, my energy level has gone way up, and I have lost 7 pounds. I now scour labels to see the sodium content of any food that’s canned, frozen or packaged, and have largely eliminated them as cooking or meal options. Because I am limited to 500 milligrams (1/5 of a teaspoon) of sodium per day, I am motivated to eat foods without dressings, heavy sauces—mainly foods in their cleanest state. Because I can feel such a huge difference in my health and energy level—it has helped keep me motivated to be creative with herbs, spices and flavors without adding salt.

The mushroom ragout recipe, below, is wonderfully versatile. As an appetizer on crostini, served over pasta, risotto or polenta, or as a side to chicken breast or a filet mignon, it is delicious. You can make it with a single mushroom (like button or crimini), or mix several types of mushrooms for a richer, more complex flavor.

Mushroom Ragout

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 tablespoon chopped chives

12 ounces crimini, shitake, oyster, button or portobello mushrooms (I mix them all for the richest flavor), sliced thin

1/3 cup unsalted chicken broth (Kitchen Basics is my favorite)

1/3 cup dry red wine

2-3 tablespoons whipping cream

1 teaspoon truffle oil (for drizzling)

Saute butter and garlic together. Add sliced mushrooms. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add broth, wine, and continue cooking until the liquid reduces by about half. Add cream and chives, and cook for another minute to combine all flavors. Drizzle with truffle oil and serve with your favorite protein or starch.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Healing Foods: Caramelized Brussels Sprouts and How Much is 500 Milligrams of Salt?

1 teaspoon of table salt is approximately 2400 milligrams of sodium. That teaspoon of salt thrown into boiling water to cook pasta is now almost 5 times my daily allowance of sodium (my cardiologist told me to limit my sodium intake to 500 milligrams a day). So, how does someone not familiar with watching her salt intake learn to live with less than 1/5 of a teaspoon per day?

Stop cooking with it, for starters. That has been going on for a few weeks now, and I have been pleasantly surprised that we can go without it at mealtimes with no complaint. My daughters have been enjoying their sodium-free meals, and eating more vegetables. One of their favorite veggie dishes is caramelized Brussels sprouts.

I grew up with an English mother, and Brussels sprouts, along with mashed carrots and turnips, were staples at our house. We always ate our sprouts steamed, until one year we discovered that if you steamed them lightly and then sautéed them, they were even better. When I learned in a cooking class what caramelized Brussels sprouts tasted like—I was hooked.

Steamed lightly, sautéed in a little butter sprinkled with ½ teaspoon of sugar, the sautéing process gives the sprouts a sweet/savory coating that makes the outside of the sprout a caramel brown color. They are tender, sweet/savory, delicious bites full of goodness. Steaming helps bring out the cholesterol lowering benefits of these healthy cruciferous vegetables, and they are loaded with vitamins K, C, and manganese—and fiber.

Paired with any protein, these are a healthy and delicious accompaniment.

1 lb. Brussels sprouts, stems cut and sprouts cut in half (or quartered, if they are large)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter or olive oil

½ teaspoon sugar

Pepper to taste

Place Brussels sprouts in a steamer basket over boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain to remove excess water/steam.

In a skillet, heat butter over medium heat until completely melted, and sprinkle sugar over butter. Add sprouts and sauté, stirring gently ever 3-4 minutes for about 15 minutes, until outsides of sprouts become caramelized. Serve immediately.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Healing Foods: Zucchini, Onion and Tomato Tian-Delicious Without Salt!

As I continue to eliminate salt from my diet—I am, of course, shocked at the amount of it that I was consuming on a daily basis. Not only did I salt as I was cooking, but most condiments, stocks, and processed food ingredients contain very generous amounts of sodium. I have had to rethink using canned tomatoes, ketchups and other condiment sauces, chicken, beef and vegetable stock, and other key ingredients as I scour the labels to assess the sodium level in all of them.

The other evening, I was pleasantly surprised (again!) at how tasty a dish completely devoid of my once favorite seasoning can be. I made veal cutlets that were sprinkled with pepper and sautéed in a little olive oil. Once they were cooked, I deglazed the pan with a little white wine, and added my favorite salt free Kitchen basics chicken stock. I added a teaspoon of spicy Dijon mustard to the liquid and let it reduce. With that, I made a vegetable tian of thinly sliced layered vegetables that are roasted with olive oil and fresh herbs. It was delicious—and with the fresh thyme and other herbs added to it—very flavorful. The vegetables, all heart-healthy and nutrition dense, meld deliciously into a tender side dish that you can serve with many different main courses.

My daughters didn’t notice that salt was missing, and ate it all. So, if you are looking to cut down on sodium—here is a recipe that is so yummy you won’t even know it’s not there.

Vegetable Tian

2 medium zucchini sliced thin

1 large onion sliced thin

2 tomatoes sliced thin or chopped into small dice

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons chopped herbs (I use rosemary, thyme and parsley)

pepper to taste

Coat the bottom of a 9X11 roasting pan with olive oil. Spread a thin layer of zucchini, and top with herbs and pepper to taste. Add the layer of onion, and sprinkle more herbs. Add the tomatoes to the top and drizzle remaining olive oil and herbs over it. Bake at 400 for 25 minutes, until vegetables are softened. Serve with your favorite protein (it goes well with the veal cutlets above).

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Healing Foods: Butternut Squash Soup and A Wakeup Call

Anyone who knows me knows that I decided to meet 50 with a vengeance. When my daughter suggested that there should be 50 celebrations of my birthday this year, I embraced it. Dining out, cooking elaborate dinners with friends, and toasting myself that I didn’t feel my age with over 36 celebrations so far this year. After a gastronomic trip through the French Alps this summer, and a month spent researching fried chicken around NYC for a comfort food chapter of a cookbook project—I realized that something was not right.

I have had high blood pressure, and been on medication, since my daughters were born prematurely as a result of preeclampsia. In my 30’s, and even into my 40’s, I let the medication manage my blood pressure while I lived my life with gusto—enjoying food and wine with occasional exercise thrown in. At 50, my erratic blood pressure got to levels so high that I knew that I needed help.

My doctor and my cardiologist have both told me very firmly that I need to lose at least 25 pounds, and cut out sugar, fried foods and salt. I also needed to start moving, and managing my stress in a much more consistent way. I know they are right—I can feel it.

I have accepted the challenge to still try to cook things that are satisfying without butterfat, salt, and the usual doses of sugar, cream and chocolate that are staples in my cooking. I also wanted to make sure that the whole family came along on the journey and didn’t feel deprived.

On Sunday, we made a butternut squash soup that has made me very hopeful that this will work. It is loaded with beta-carotene, potassium, vitamin C and fiber, and when pureed into a soup, makes a creamy, satisfying bowl of goodness that is completely dairy free. And its easy—25 minutes from stove to table.

This recipe is going out to help others get inspired to cook delicious and healthy foods. Especially my dear friend who reminded me the other evening that living our lives to the fullest with our children is the best gift we can give ourselves—and them.

Butternut Squash Soup

1 tablespoon

1 large onion, chopped

1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut and chopped into large dice (about 3 cups)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage (or 1 heaping teaspoon dried, rubbed sage)

1 quart unsalted chicken stock (Kitchen Basics makes a great one)

Pepper to taste

In a soup pot or dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat and sauté onion until translucent. Add butternut squash, sage and pepper. Stew for about 3 minutes. Add stock and bring to a boil, the reduce to simmer for about 25 minutes until tender. Puree in a blender or food processor in batches until smooth. Return to pot and correct seasonings, adding more stock, pepper and sage as needed. Serve with a green salad and crusty French bread.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Comfort Food: Lobster Rolls and Loving the Red Hook Lobster Pound!

Each weekend, we take a trip to Brooklyn to do our grocery shopping and some gastronomic exploring. It is an excursion I look forward to with delight, to find new ingredients to cook with, new places to eat, and new dishes to try to recreate at home in the little ethnic neighborhoods of Brooklyn.

When we discovered the Red Hook Lobster Pound on Van Brunt Street in Brooklyn—I knew I had hit the jackpot. A storefront that sells the freshest of lobsters from Maine to take home and cook (and they sell the lobster pots to cook them in—nice, deep pots for steaming or boiling), they also have a brisk and wildly popular business selling Maine and Connecticut lobster rolls for take out or to eat-in at the lovely Maine-inspired patio dining room next door. We love to order the rolls and sit in on the lovely picnic tables hand-crafted by owner Ralph Gorham, and study the lobster lore featured on the walls of the eatery. There are also benches outside for al fresco eating for the crowds that line up down the street to sample the delicious rolls. Two lobster rolls are offered—the Maine version—a chilled lobster salad with mayonnaise, scallions and celery is a favorite of my husband and daughter, while the Connecticut version, served warm and topped with lots of melted butter and chopped chives and scallions, is the best food discovery I have made in a long time. They also sell a steamed lobster dinner for eat-in or take out, with corn on the cob, and a choice of cole slaw and potato salad, and a host of sodas from Maine. And if the lobster rolls are not enough, they offer whoopee pies and Maine blueberry cupcakes for dessert.

Since lobster is an excellent low fat source of Protein, Niacin, Vitamin B12, Copper and Magnesium, and a good source of Fiber, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Iron, and Potassium—it can make for guilt free eating (even with the butter and bun!) I have taken to bringing lobsters home to steam and crack open with friends over a great bottle of wine, and have even created my own Lobster Pound-inspired version of the Connecticut roll. All I need is a sandy beach outside my Manhattan apartment building and life will be grand indeed…

Connecticut Lobster Roll (inspired by Red Hook Lobster Pound)

¼ cup chopped scallion greens (about 2 scallions)

¼ cup melted butter

1 tbsp. chopped chives

1 pound cooked lobster meat, roughly chopped (about 2 1/2 cups)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 lobster roll buns or hot dog buns

On a griddle or in a skillet, add 1 tbsp. melted butter. Add lobster meat. With a pastry brush, add additional melted butter onto lobster, and sauté, turning lightly until warmed through. Add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Butter insides of lobster roll and toast, butter sides down, on the griddle alongside lobster until lightly browned and toasty—about 3 minutes. Fill each with a generous 1/2 cup of the lobster, top with scallions and chives and serve immediately.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Comfort Food: Farfalle with Smoked Salmon, Red Onion and Capers and Remembering Rigsby’s

When I lived in Columbus, Ohio, one of my favorite restaurants was Rigsbys in the Short North neighborhood. The deliciously inventive food created by Kent Rigsby and his team was the best in the city, and one of their dishes, a farfalle pasta with smoked salmon, red onion and capers in a creamy sauce is still one of my favorite pastas of all time.

I love trying new things, and attempting to dissect the ingredient list and recreate the dish at home. My sister, her friend P.R. and I tried recreating this dish together a few times when I still lived there. P.R. finally got the recipe down and shared it with us, and I have been making this hometown dish here in NYC for family and friends for 22 years now. It is easy, delicious, elegant, and addictive, with protein loaded smoked salmon, heart healthy onions and that forever comfort food—pasta (in a creamy sauce, no less!). It makes both the health and comfort foods list. It is great as an appetizer portion and elegant as a main dish meal. With a green salad and crusty bread, you have a dinner party!

So, with gratitude to Kent Rigsby and his wonderful restaurant for creating this dish (and so many great memories of dinner at Rigsby's in my Columbus years!), I offer our inspired version of his Farfalle with Smoked Salmon.

1 lb. farfalle, cooked al dente according to package instructions (you can substitute your favorite pasta cut as well—I prefer farfalle)

2 tbsp. butter

1 large red onion, sliced thin

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 tbsps. capers

3 tbsps. vodka (I just use a shotglass and add a shot)

1 cup chicken stock

½ cup heavy cream

fresh ground black pepper

3-4 slices smoked salmon, julienned

In a skillet, melt butter and sauté red onion for about 5-7 minutes, until they start to soften slightly. Add vodka and stir, then add chicken stock, capers and pepper, and allow sauce to reduce by about half. Add heavy cream and mix sauce together well.

Toss freshly cooked pasta with sauce and smoked salmon. Serve.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Healing Foods: Asian Inspired Slaw and Cooking Chinese with Marilyn

It has become a bit of a custom for my friend Marilyn and I to combine ingredients from each of our kitchens to cook (and eat!) dinner together with our families. We did that on Sunday, in order to make the spring rolls that Marilyn’s Chinese mother-in-law makes from scratch. I would love to write about Mrs. Lee’s spring rolls, which are delicious. But Marilyn’s husband broke the news to us that our attempt was not at all authentic—so we need to keep perfecting our technique.

We did, however, create a lovely Asian inspired slaw to go with our dinner, and I am happy to share the recipe. It is a salad of shredded cabbage and carrots, with chopped broccoli, mung beans, scallions and cilantro tossed with a vinaigrette of seasoned rice vinegar, sesame oil, grapeseed oil and toasted sesame seeds. It is refreshing, light, super healthy and easy—and it goes great with the spring rolls made by a nice Jewish girl from Long Island and a nice Irish Catholic girl from Grove City, Ohio.

Loaded with fiber, vitamins and nutritional goodness, this slaw is a great accompaniment to many main courses. It is packed with vitamins C, K and A, is a good source of protein, potassium, and heart healthy and cholesterol lowering enzymes.

2 cups shredded cabbage

1 cup shredded carrots

1 cup chopped broccoli

1 cup mung beans

½ cup chopped scallions

½ cup chopped cilantro

¼ cup seasoned rice vinegar

¼ cup sesame oil

¼ cup grapeseed oil or other neutral oil

1 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds

salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together in large bowl. Adjust the seasoning (may want to add more seasoned rice vinegar, pepper or salt)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Healing Foods: Onion Soup, Green Juice and some TLC

My friend Nancy is going through chemo….again. She has been brave, stoic, and strong throughout. But the other day, when I ran into her, she looked bone tired. Concerned about how pale she was, I suggested she needed some green juice shots to give her a vitamin boost.

She came over on Saturday with my friend Marilyn, and we made a green juice for her. Kale, spinach, carrot and pear juice to cleanse the liver, eliminate toxins, and infuse the blood with vitamins A,K, C folate, and magnesium. The pear and carrot are a sweet balance to the kale and spinach, and combined they pack a vitamin wallop. She liked the juice, and even took some home to drink the next morning for breakfast.

Sometimes during chemo, with a lessened appetite and not much taste for any kind of food, the best thing to eat is a hearty, comforting soup. Since I know Nancy loves onion soup, I decided to make some for her. It is nice to have a steaming bowl of comfort soup to help fortify your body and boost your spirits. And the onions are great for promoting heart health, to boot.

So for Nancy, I am offering this oh-so-easy onion soup recipe with a heaping dose of TLC….

Onion Soup

2 large onions, sliced thin

1 tbsp. margarine or olive oil

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 tbsp flour

I ½ cartons beef stock (Kitchen Basics is a rich, tasty broth that I prefer)

2-3 beef bouillon cubes

1 tbsp. Kitchen Bouquet or Gravy Master (optional—but makes the broth richer)

Freshly grated gruyere/parmesan cheese toasts for garnish

In a large soup pot, heat oil. Add sliced onions and pepper and sauté for about 10 minutes until onions are soft. Add 1 tbsp. flour to onions and stir to coat. Add beef stock, bouillon cubes, and gravy master. Bring to a boil, reduce and let simmer 30 minutes.

Make cheese toasts by sprinkling cheese on baguette slices or sliced bread. Broil 2-3 minutes until cheese is melted and slightly browned. Ladle soup into bowl and top with cheese toast.

Nancy’s Green Juice

1 bunch kale

1 bunch spinach

1 large carrot

2 pears

Juice all ingredients together and serve.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Healing Foods: Carrot Ginger Soup and Carrot Ginger Juice and Remembering Glenn

A year ago at this time, my friends and I were in the full throes of cooking for our dear friend Glenn. Diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer in early March, Glenn hoped to beat the 3-15 month time left given by his doctors and stay here as long as possible to be with his partner and children.

I offered to be Glenn’s personal chef and nutritional coach, and assembled a team of our friends to help with research, cooking, shopping and food delivery. I bought a Breville juicer, and started making him freshly squeezed juices, soups and teas that would be comforting and nutrient dense during his first chemo treatments.

Glenn never lost his wicked and wonderful sense of humor during his illness. In an email to us on April 2, when three girlfriends got together to make him carrot and ginger soup and some other treats, he wroteI cannot thank you all enough! I have an image of the three of you over a pot, chanting, circling, chanting, circling, spitting on the pot, burning sage and chanting up the boil in the pot, toss in left ear of a dead man, POOF! and then y'all toss heads back and cackle and howl with delight! All to make the perfect Carrot and Ginger soup! Well, that's the image I have, and I like it.” We loved that image, too, and when he took to calling us Catherine’s Coven after that, the name stuck.

The carrot ginger soup was a puree of carrots, a bit of sautéed onion, and some chopped ginger simmered in a rich chicken stock and pureed. The beta-carotene and vitamins in the carrots were fortifying, and the ginger helped to soothe digestion and stave off nausea. In the early days of cooking for Glenn, both the soup and carrot ginger juice were staples in his fridge, ready anytime he had a bit of an appetite or needed some soothing food. More than the food, Glenn enjoyed the love and community that came with our nutritional gift, and was bowled over by all the love, care and concern coming his way.

Sadly, Glenn lost his battle with cancer, but we all still think of him daily as we remember our journey together last year, and the amazing father, partner, friend and man that he was. To carry out his wish that I write a cookbook, I started a food blog, and continue to cook for others and share healing recipes for people going through illness.

I have also continued my food research, and continue to learn more about the healing and nutritional power of food. I have begun juicing in earnest, and love the energy packed shots of juice in various fruit and vegetable combinations throughout the day. The recipes for carrot ginger soup, and carrot ginger juice have become regular menu items in my family--both the soup and the juice are delicious, healthy, and comforting.

Carrot Ginger Soup

2 teaspoons olive oil

½ chopped onion

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

5-7 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

2 cups chicken stock

salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a skillet, sauté onion and ginger. In a saucepan, put carrots and stock and simmer for 20 minutes until carrots are tender. Add onion/ginger mixture. Puree in batches in a food processor until smooth. Return to saucepan and season with salt and pepper. Serve.

Carrot Ginger Juice

4-5 carrots

1 inch piece ginger

½ granny smith apple

Juice all ingredients together and serve!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Healing Foods: Beet Celery Orange Juice and Another Believer!

I have been telling my sister and brother-in-law how much I love the fresh vegetable and fruit juices I have been making to give the family a much needed vitamin boost for breakfast. This morning, I made a beet, orange and celery juice that was a big hit. The juice is part sweet from the beets, part zingy with fresh squeezed orange and calming with the celery juice, and it is a nutrient packed glass of deliciousness.

I have been experimenting with this one for a bit, trying to find good, healthy combinations using beets that are tasty enough for two picky daughters. All of my waxing about the power of green vegetable juice and fresh juicing even made my brother-in-law John go out and get his own Breville super juicer. He has been making his own green juices for about a week now. I told him about this juice combo, and he asked for the recipe.

According to, beets have been shown to provide anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification support, and help to promote eye health. Beets also include enzymes that aid in the prevention and treatment of certain cancer types. 1 orange provides 100% of our daily dose of vitamin C, and is a good source of A and B vitamins, beta-carotene and potassium. Celery is a powerful anti-inflammatory, and is a good source of iron, folic acid, potassium and calcium.

So, when I let John know how wonderful this juice was, he suggested that I send him the recipe. I am sending this with love to my brother-in-law, and to all looking for delicious fresh squeezed juice recipes to set their day…

Beet, Celery and Orange Juice

2 beets, washed and quartered

2 stalks celery

2 oranges, quartered and skin removed

Add all ingredients to juicer. Makes 2 servings.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Comfort Food: German Chocolate Brownies

I have written before about the healing power of chocolate (see Break-Up Cupcakes, September 2010 post). It is also one of the ultimate comfort foods in any form. Candies, cookies, cupcakes, brownies….a little chocolate goes a long way to lift the spirits and soothe the soul.

On Sunday, both of my daughters were quite unhappily doing their homework. It was a sunny late-afternoon, and instead of being outside, hanging with friends, or painting their toenails, they were sitting at the dining room table working away. They were not loving it—or me. I decided that some comfort food was in order. The idea of a rich, chocolate brownie came to me, but since I really wanted to pull out all of the stops on comfort food, I decided to top the brownies with German Chocolate Cake Frosting. The rich caramel frosting with pecans and coconut is a big childhood favorite of mine—and they love it, too.

It was surprisingly easy—and shockingly good. Very rich, chewy, chocolate-y and satisfying. So much better than multiplication and global history!

German Chocolate Frosted Brownies

For Brownies:

4 squares unsweetened chocolate

3/4 cup butter or margarine

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup flour

Heat oven to 350°F. Line 13x9-inch pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides. Spray foil with cooking spray.

Microwave chocolate and butter in large microwaveable bowl on high 2 min. or until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Stir in sugar. Blend in eggs and vanilla. Add flour and mix well. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake 25-30 min. or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with fudgy crumbs. (Do not over bake.) Cool completely. Use foil handles to remove brownies from pan before cutting to serve.

German Chocolate (Cake) Frosting

1 c. sugar

3 egg yolks

1 tsp. vanilla

1 c. nuts

1 stick butter

1 can condensed milk

1 tbsp. cornstarch

1 can coconut

Combine ingredients and cook over low heat; stirring constantly until thickened, about 12 minutes. Add chopped pecans and coconut.

Spread frosting over brownies. When completely cool, cut into squares. Keep refrigerated in airtight container.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Comfort Foods: Pasta with Shrimp and Cilantro Garlic Lemon Pesto

My daughter runs cross country for her high school track team. Now that spring training has started, she practices three times a week (and runs with her Dad on weekends when she is feeling really ambitious). Needless to say, she comes home from practice famished, and wondering how quickly dinner can be served.

This week, to get both protein and carbs to refuel her for practice, I made a pasta dish with sautéed shrimp and a pesto of garlic, cilantro, and lemon. She gave it a two-thumbs up—so I am thrilled that she likes something that is both healthy for her and quick for me to get on the table. Served with freshly grated parmesan and a green salad, it is a great weekday dinner.

½ pound favorite pasta, cooked according to package directions

½ pound shrimp, peeled, washed and deveined

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper


1 cup cilantro leaves, plucked from stems

2-3 cloves garlic

1/3 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons seafood or chicken stock (I use chicken)

1 teaspoon lemon zest

Juice of 1 lemon

Parmesan cheese for garnish

Mix all pesto ingredients in a food processor. Prepare pasta. Heat oil in a skillet. Add shrimp, salt and pepper. When shrimp is cooked, toss with pesto in skillet. Toss in pasta. Garnish with cheese, if desired. Makes 2 generous servings.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Healing Food: Ayurvedic Green Juice and an Inspiring Family

Dana (second from right) and Dan with their cousins and Grandma in 2009

On my recent trip back to Ohio, I was elated at the amazing recovery my niece Dana has made.

She and my nephew Dan met and fell in love in college, and became each other’s biggest fans at soccer matches (hers) and golf matches (his) that they played with their now alma-mater Dennison University’s teams.

Not long after they were married, she was coaching high school soccer and teaching, and the two lovebirds spent time running, hiking, following their dreams and loving their new life together. Then Dana started to experience excruciating back pains that sidelined her active lifestyle, and eventually kept her housebound trying to manage the pain and learn how it could be cured.

Over the course of two years, she visited doctor after doctor with my nephew, traveling from Ohio to Minnesota in search of a specialist who could help her. She grew weary of the pain, and fearful of the pain medication that she needed every day to perform the simplest of tasks. A degenerative disk disease was diagnosed, and surgery followed. She continued to have terrible pain after surgery, and to suffer side effects from the medication. She lost weight and muscle, and much of her appetite.

Her doctor recommended an Ayurvedic healer, who helped her with pain management strategies through meditation and breathing. She also began to follow an Ayurvedic diet, which helped to rid her of the toxins the pain medication had produced. She began to respond to the treatments, and began to wean herself from the medications she depended on for two years. She is now able to sit comfortably, travel on planes, drive, tie her shoes and cut the food on her plate—tasks that were impossible with the pain she felt in her back and limbs. When I saw her at my birthday dinner, she was radiant, healthy, beautiful and smiling—I was thrilled for her.

It inspired me to get out my Ayurvedic cookbooks and do some online research on Ayurvedic diet. One of my happy discoveries was a website called Joyful Belly ( . This website, founded by John Immel, is a wealth of food information, and has some wonderful recipes that I have tried over the past week.

One of them, kale ginger lemonade, is a healthy, cleansing and nutritionally dense drink that I would love to make part of my daily breakfast routine.

Rather than post the recipe and photo of this amazing green drink, I invite you to visit the website and get the recipe for yourself, and explore some of John’s wonderful recipes and healthy living tips. I saw first hand how this path helped my niece, and am happy to spread the good word.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Healing Foods: Seared Sea-Scallop Salad with Spinach Pesto Vinaigrette

On Sunday, we had dinner with our wonderful foodie friends. I told them I was trying a new recipe—part of our 2011 eating healthier plan. My friend Berett was dubious. In our more than 20-year friendship, Berett and I have had a mutual love affair with food. Our friendship has included many wonderful, funny and heart warming stories---all involving good food and drink. We even decided to diet together to support each other (more than a few times), and have blossomed together too—so linked is our foodie friendship and love for one another.

I was making a fish stew as the main course (see Omega 3 For All…posted in May 2010), so I decided to showcase the beautiful scallops I found at the fish market as the appetizer. The scallops were sprinkled with salt and pepper, and seared quickly on each side in clarified butter. Once they were cooked, I placed them on a bed of fresh spinach and arugula leaves, topped with a spinach pesto vinaigrette and served with garlic crostini. The combination is delicious, and the scallop and spinach salad combination is both low fat and nutrient packed. And it is quick and easy to prepare.

I had been reading about the nutrient density of sea-scallops, a shellfish I happen to love for its delicate flavor and versatility. In addition to their delectable taste, scallops contain a variety of nutrients that promote cardiovascular health, and provide protection against colon cancer. Sea-scallops are an excellent source of vitamin-B12. In addition to their B12, they're a very good source of omega-3 fatty acids and a good source of magnesium and potassium, three other nutrients that provide significant benefits for the cardiovascular system.

So, in honor of my friend Berett, who has loved me through thick and thin (literally!), I offer this healthy recipe to all…

Seared Sea-Scallop Salad with Spinach Pesto Vinaigrette

12 large sea scallops, salted and peppered

3 tablespoons clarified butter

Heat large skillet over high heat. Add clarified butter and allow to heat for 30 seconds. Add scallops (gently) to the skillet, searing on each side for about 45 seconds. Remove from skillet to plate.

On each of four salad plates, place a mound of spinach/arugula leaves. Top with 3 seared scallops. Sprinkle spinach pesto vinaigrette (recipe below) over salad leaves, and a small dot on each scallop. Garnish with chives.

Spinach Pesto Vinaigrette

2 cups fresh spinach leaves

2 cloves garlic

¼ cup shredded parmesan

½ cup to ¾ cup olive oil

salt and pepper

juice of ½ lemon

In a food processor, process garlic. Add spinach and parmesan cheese. Pour in olive oil, a little at a time –about ½ cup for thicker pesto, ¾ for thinner pesto (I prefer thinner pesto—so more olive oil). Add the juice of ½ lemon to make vinaigrette.