Friday, September 30, 2011

New Twist on Roasted Asparagus

Beet stems add a crisp sweetness to roasted asparagus

The next time you buy beets make sure to store the stems in tupperware in your refridgerator.  You can pop them in the microwave and eat them plain - they're really sweet and delicious.  Each bunch of beets has a ton of stems and the store in the fridge quite nicely.

Don't toss the beet stems or leaves - they're delcious and the stems can last in the fridge for a week or two

I was making roasted asparagus last night and decided to toss some of the stems in while the dish roasted.  They offered a sweet contrast to the pungent asparagus - and it looked nice too!  Try it next time you roast asaparagus, broccoli or brussel sprouts.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

To Weigh or Not to Weigh?

I have dubbed this "the mean scale" because I'm always 2 pounds heavier on it than the nicer scale at the Y

I know so many people that refuse to step on a scale.  It's the one gadget that can ruin your day in no time flat.  But I think it's crucial to know how much you weigh at least on a weekly basis.  This way, you can see if things are going south and you can do something about it before things really get out of hand.  Mirrors can lie, we can lie to ourselves and put together pretty good camouglage to hide the excess pounds even from ourselves.  When I was 45 pounds heavier I wore a t-shirt, untucked, and cover that with a button down oxford shirt, also untucked.  "What, me fat?  No, I'm wearing two shirts and they're UNTUCKED!  I'm actually about the size of a chiuaua underneath all these shirts!"

The "nice" type of scale (not my feet)

The West Side YMCA has two scales in the Men's Locker Room.  One I have dubbed the "nice" scale.  It's an old fashioned scale that operates on springs.  If you don't like the reading you can hop on and off and get all sorts of different readings.  I've lost 5 pounds in a matter of seconds by getting on and off it several times until I get the reading I like.  You can wait for 10 minutes to use it if you get behind someone who finds the readings dissastisfying.  If I get good news on the nice scale, I'll go to the other end of the locker room and take on the mean scale.  It's just like the scale you find in a doctor's office.  I always weigh at least 2 pounds heavier on that scale.  You can get on and off from now until the cows come home and it will give the same reading.  So I guess I can be in denial, too.  But at least even the nice scale gives you an idea of where you stand.

The Celebrity Scale

I found a scale on the internet called The Celebrity Scale.  Rather than giving you your weight it tells you which celebrity you resemble size-wise.  It compares you to anything from Gizmo from The Gremlins to Mr. Ed to King Kong.  Euphemisms are fine, but I don't think I would find anything sugar coated to being compared to Mr. Ed or King Kong.  With my luck it would probably compare me to Richard Simmons.

The Hello Kitty scale

I found a Hello Kitty scale on the internet as well.  I don't really like Hello Kitty and I can see myself going after it with a hammer if the news were bad enough.

Here's the bottom line: force yourself to get in the habit of weighing yourself.  I weigh myself every day.  I have a cut off point were it's time for full scale press damage control.  My drop dead weight is anything over 160 pounds (I weighed 146 pounds this morning).  If I go above 160 pounds I up the cardio as much as possible - even taking two or three classes in a day.  I eliminate all of the things that are decidely non-skinny - even though I advocate healthy eating and exercise, I'll have the occasional piece of chocolate - or have pasta and garlic bread a few times in one week.  I really watch the carbs and only have fish for dinner.   Before you really hate me, I look like I weigh more than I actually do - I think I have hollow bones or something.  My top weight ever was 190 pounds, which can look fine on someone 5'10" but on me I just looked fat.  And genetics are not on my side.  My family tends to be on the heavier side.  My brother is quite heavy at the moment.  Even though I don't like to pass up an opportunity to torture him, I will refrain from posting his picture (unless you really beg or unless he does something to really piss me off.  Just kidding!  Sort of!). 

So before you think being skinny for me is like falling off a log, it's really not.  I've just found a system to stay trim, that I'm happy to share with you. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Dessert: Gelato!

Sorbet and gelato have less than half the fat than ice cream.  This is one of my favorites - raspberry and lemon sorbet.

This is my first posting about dessert.  I love to cook but I'm not a baker.  With baking you have to be very precise with measurements or you end up with a disaster.  Cooking is a lot freer.  It's been difficult for me to write out recipes because I usually just do things by eyeing them - a pinch here, a dash there.

Gelato has a wide variety of intense flavors
On top of all that - I'm not really a cookies or cake person - my go-to dessert was always ice cream.  Until that fateful trip to Napoli and I had my first gelato.  Gelato is a lot denser than ice cream and the flavors more intense.  Plus - gelato is lower in fat than ice cream.  In fact, it has half the fat of ice cream - about 6 or 7 percent.  Ice cream is 12 - 18% fat.  To be considered ice cream in the USA it has to have at least 10% butter fat.  The fruit based gelatos have less than 1% fat.  That's why gelato (which is Italian for ice cream) can't be called ice cream.

So the next time you're looking for a tasty dessert mangia on gelato!  It's healthier than ice cream and, in my humble opinion, offers much better texture and flavors.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

My Money Saving Weekend

Friday night: tuna burgers and roasted asparagus, tomato and lemon

Last Friday, payday was a week away and my bank account was on empty.  I decided to have a little competition with myself and spend as little money as possible over the weekend.  So for dinner on Friday  night I defrosted a tuna burger - they freeze very nicely.  Here's the link to the recipe:  I had some asparagus in the fridge which I roasted with tomatoes, garlic and onion.  Basically a free dinner.  See my posting on August 3rd for the roasted asparagus recipe.

Saturday lunch: tuna with low fat mayo, hot peppers, dill pickles and pita chips

For lunch on Saturday I made one of my favorite sandwiches - tuna with peppers and low fat mayonaisse.  I already had a can of albacore tuna in the fridge - I keep it there so it's chilled when I'm ready to make a sandwich - here's the recipe:  The brioche hero roll cost 79 cents.

No walk to Riverside Park is complete without a stop at the Boat Basin

After lunch Hubbell and I headed out to Riverside Park - that's free entertainment!

Majestic sailboat anchored in the Hudson

The old and new: abandoned structure with cruise ships in the backround

Hubbell visited friends at the dog run

Saturday dinner: rigatoni with clam sauce

On the way home from the gym on Saturday morning I checked out the local fish monger.  He had clams on sale for $5.99 a dozen.  I love linguine with clam sauce.  I was out of linguine but had rigatoni - works just as well!  Here's a link to the recipe:

A dozen clams for $5.99

All in all a pretty inexpensive weekend - my out-of-pocket was under $10.00.  I try to challenge myself to have "spend no money" days and inexpensive weekends - it's a fun competition.  Living in one of the most expensive cities in the world, not spending a penny and still eating and living large.  Try it!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Swordfish with Lemon, Capers and Garlic

Steamed swordfish with capers, lemon and garlic with broccolini, celery root and beets.

Last night I experimented with steaming swordfish instead of grilling as is my usual method.  I don't think I've ever had my swordfish steamed.  Well, I'm adding it to my repertoire because it's delicious!  It's also very easy and your kitchen isn't left smelling of fish.

Cover with the ingredients and steam for 12 minutes.

I have the recipe spelled out below, but all you do is put the swordfish in a casserole dish.  Cover with minced garlic and capers.  I top the fish with thinly sliced lemon.  Steam for 12 minutes and it's dinner!

Celery root and beets.

I already had broccolini as a side dish but I noticed beets were on sale.  And right near the beets was a small head of celery root.  I've never attempted cooking celery root.  I usually pass it up because it's so ugly and I figured it would be very difficult to peel.  In fact, it was very easy to peel the celery root.  After it was peeled I cut it into chunks that were about 1/2" wide and 1/2" thick.  First I roasted the beets at 300 degrees for about 45 minutes.  Then I added the celery root to the same pan and cooked another 30 - 45 minutes.  I added a bit of olive oil at the beginning and tossed in a lemon cut in half.

Peel and cut the celery root into 1/2" x 1/2" squares.  It cooks much faster then the beets.

Start cooking the beets first then add the celery root

For the broccolini - I steamed it along with the swordfish for 5 minutes.

After the broccolini was steamed I tossed it in with the celery root and garlic and gave it a quick sear. As usual, I seared the lemon with the other ingredients.

I made a bed of the broccolini, celery root, lemon, garlic and beets.

Place the steamed swordfish on top of the bed; I sprinkled with the Porcini Mushroom Sea Salt and freshly ground pepper.


For the swordfish

1/2 pound swordfish per person
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1/4 cup capers
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 lemon


Place swordfish in a casserole dish
Cover with one of the garlic cloves; minced
Cover with capers
Cover with thinly sliced lemon
Steam for 12 minutes

For the beets and celery root


2 pounds beets with stems removed
1 small head celery root
1 lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste


Scrub the beets; place in pan
Peel the celery root; cut into 1/2" x 1/2" cubes
3 garlic cloves, smashed
Place pan with beets into a pre-heated 300 degree oven
cover with 1 tablespoon olive oil
Roast for 45 minutes - one hour
Add the celery root cubes and garlic- toss them in a bowl with 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt and pepper; add to the pan with the beets
Cook for 1/2 hour - 45 minutes
Set beets aside in a seperate bowl.  Keep the celery root and garlic in the pan place on stovetop - don't put the heat on yet; you'll be adding the broccolini and garlic and stir frying

For the Broccolini

1 small bunch broccolini
1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

When the swordfish has been steaming for 6 minutes, add the broccolini, lemon and garlic on a separate level (my steamer has 2 levels)
Steam for 6 minutes
Set Swordfish aside (I kept it in the steamer but removed heat)
Shake excess water from the broccolini, garlic and lemon
Stir fry with the celery root for 3 - 4 minutes or until crispy

Make a bed of the broccolini, celery root, garlic, lemon and beets
Serve swordfish on top of the bed.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Essential Spices

Williams-Sonoma has really interesting salts like Wild Porcini Sea Salt

With the change of seasons today, it's a good idea to take stock of the spices you have in your pantry.  This weekend take the opportunity to see what you have, check expiration dates, and toss those spices that have been in the cabinet for 5 years and are well past the expiration dates.  While you're at it, take a look at the list below to see if you're prepared for the cooking you'll do in the months ahead.  There's nothing worse than getting half way through a recipe only to discover you're missing needed spices.  In no particular order, this is what I recommend you keep on hand:

Parsley (fresh is best)
Garlic (I like the powdered and fresh)
Basil (again, fresh is best)
Bay leaf
Dill weed
Ground ginger
Black pepper and peppercorn
Hungarian paprika
Rosemary (though I prefer fresh)
Crushed red pepper
    Onion Powder

If you really want to go to town, check out the spices at Williams-Sonoma.  They have cool things like Porcini Mushroom Sea Salt, Meyer Lemon Peel and Australian Pink Sea Salt.  I tried the Porcini Mushroom Sea Salt last night on a tuna burger - it really transformed the flavor!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Linda's Energy Bars

Making your own energy bars isn't difficult - and this recipe is delicious!

Every Spring at the West Side Y there's a Spin-a-thon to raise money for the Strong Kids Campaign to send inner-city kids to camp.  It lasts about 8 hours and people get sponsors to donate a certain amount of money per hour they spend spinning.  For the uninitiated, spin is a class on a stationary bike.  Before I took spin I thought it was a class where you spun around, which seemed rather pointless and thinking about it made me dizzy. The classes typically last for 45 minutes to an hour and simulate a ride on a real bike covering all sorts of different terraines, from flat roads where you focus on speed, or mountains where the resistance is extremely high and you try to go fast but it's difficult.  I wear a heart rate monitor that tells you how many beats per minute your heart is going and at the end it calculates your highest heart rate, the average and how many calories you've burned.  My heart rate usually maxes out at 170, averages around 140 and I usually burn between 500 and 600 calories in a 45 minute class. On Saturdays I take two classes in a row an rack up1,100 to 1,200 carlories.  Pass the cheese cake!

But I digress - the Spin-a-thon is a fun event for a good cause.  There are door prizes (this year I won a pair of footies with De-Feet written on them), a variety of instructors and this year Linda, one of my favorite spin teachers, made delicious energy bars.  They were so much better than the ones you buy at the store.

Linda is at center in the pink shirt with the black and white stripes.  That's me in the red tank top looking like I'm about to keel over!

I'm a whiz at preparing savory dishes but sweets and desserts aren't my thing at all.  But even I could do this recipe - so give it a shot and let me know how it goes!


2 cups quick-cooking oats
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup honey
2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup canola oil
4 eggs, beaten (can use just egg whites for two of these, if you prefer)
1 1/2 cups chopped dried tart cherries
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
Cooking spray
1/3 cup apricot preserves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oats, flour, wheat germ, cinnamon, and salt.
In another bowl, whisk together the honey, applesauce, oil, and eggs until well combined. Stir in the oatmeal mixture until well combined. Add the dried cherries and walnuts.
Coat a 9 x 13-inch pan with cooking spray.  Spread the mixture into the pr
epared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes.  Put the preserves in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  As soon as the bars come out of the oven, brush with the preserves.  Cool completely and cut into bars.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cajun Catfish! Tastes Fried but it's Baked and Healthy

Baked not fried - but you'd never know it!

My friend Chef Bobo is passionate about healthy eating.  He is the Executive Chef and Food Service Director at the Calhoun School in Manhattan.  He is commited to introducing food that appeals to the children at his school and to instill healthy eating habits that will stay with them throughout their lives.  Chef was even a guest of Michelle Obama at the White House garden.  There's a garden on the rooftop of the Calhoun School and Chef uses fresh herbs and other produce grown there to serve the students at lunch.  He told me about a popular favorite at the school: Cajun Catfish.  I cooked it last night.  Not only is it easy to prepare - it's delicious!  And economical - the piece I used last night cost $2.50.

First you marinate catfish in buttermilk with a teaspoon of Tabasco Sauce.  I marinated it for about an hour.  I found low fat buttermilk.

Next assemble the dry ingredients (complete recipe below).

When the dry ingredients are assembled add oil so it becomes a paste.  Slather the paste on both sides of the filet - pressing down to be sure the mixture sticks.

The recipe calls for spraying a non-stick pan with Pam or equivalent cooking spray.  I was out of cooking spray and rubbed canola oil along the bottom of the pan with a paper towel (the recipe calls for safflower oil which I didn't have either.  Safflower oil is very healthy and is worth finding).  I flipped the filet over about half way through so both sides would be golden brown.

I topped with sliced lemons and popped it back in the oven while I set the table.

Et viola!

Here's the recipe and instructions along with an introduction by Chef Bobo (aka Robert W. Surles).  Here's a link to his cookbook


One of our chef’s at Calhoun, Ilya Malachias, introduced this fish entrée when I was asking the chefs to exploring “oven frying” fish and chicken instead of deep frying. This catfish dish was such a hit!  Flavorful and crispy, serve it with the tarragon tartar sauce and a little squeeze of fresh lemon.

1   lb Catfish fillets
1  cup Buttermilk
1  tspn Tabasco Sauce
            1  cup dried Bread Crumbs
1   tbsp dried thyme
1   tbsp dry mustard
1   tspn garlic powder
1    tspn onion powder
1    tspn paprika
1    tbsp salt
1   tspn ground black pepper
¼ cup Safflower Oil
1  Fresh Lemon, sliced

Cooking Spray


1.            Preheat your oven to 350ºF.  Spray a cooking sheet with the cooking spray.
2.            Add the tabasco sauce to the buttermilk and put the catfish fillets in the buttermilk.
3.            In a separate bowl combine the bread crumbs with all the seasonings and then mix in the safflower oil.
4.            One at a time remove the fish fillets from the buttermilk, let the excess milk drain off. Dredge the fish thoroughly in the bread crumbs and pat the fillet to make sure the crumbs are well attached.  Lay each fillet, when breaded on the prepared cookie sheet.
5.            When all fillets are breaded put into the preheated oven.  Cook until the coating begins to turn a golden brown, about 20 minutes.
6.            Remove from the oven and serve garnished with fresh lemon slices.

Chef Bobo with students at the Calhoun School.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sagrada Familia

This photo has been retouched to remove the construction cranes

A highlight of my trip to Barcelona was a visit to the Sagrada Familia, Antoni Gaudi's masterpiece - though it has yet to be completed even though construction began in 1882. 

Gaudi devoted his last years to the project and at the time of his death in 1926, less than a quarter of the project was complete.  Construction of the basilica has faced many hurdles over the years.  Construction was interrupted by the Spanish Civil was, only to resume intermittent work in the 1950's.
Sentinal standing guard by the main entrance

Strike a pose

When I was there it was hoped that Christmas mass could be conducted at the main altar that year.  At this point it is anticipated that the completion date will be 2026 - the centennial of Gaudi's death.

Gaudi's likeness is found in some of the statues adorning the cathedral

The basilica has a long history of dividing the citizens of Barcelona - over the intial possibility it might compete with Barcelona's other cathedral - the Santa Eulalia - to the design itself and the recent possibility that an underground tunnel of Spain's high-speed train could disturb its stability. 

The exterior is adorned with a rich variety of Christian symbols

Stained glass window near the altar

Even though the Sagrada Familia is far from finished, the remarkable church is well worth a visit.  You can visit the crypt where Gaudi is buried. There's a museum that tells the story of this great architect and the history of the church. An elevator takes you to the top of a tower where you have a magnificent view of Barcelona - not recommended for those with fear of heights!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Roasted Beets

Roasted red and yellow beets with garlic and lemon

When I started this blog my main focus was on the Mediterranean diet and coming up with recipes that are easy to make, pleasing to the eye, delicious and help with weight loss, or at least maintaining a lean physique.  That hasn't changed.  But along the way in experimenting with different foods to accomplish these goals, I've found that, not only have I lost weight, but I feel better than I have in years.  Eating healthy does more than help you reduce your waistline - it makes you look and feel better.  Friends are saying I'm looking really healthy these days.  I'm off coffee in the morning and have fresh squeezed juice, usually grapefruit juice, in the morning.  And, among other things, I'm eating more beets.

Don't toss the leaves and stems - they're delicious!

I've always liked beets, but it freaked me out a bit they way it turns urine a pinkish, reddish color.  Now I just look at it this way - the beets are doing their job of getting through your entire body.  They detoxify the liver.  They help lower chloresterol. They're even used to treat and prevent certain  cancers.  It's believed that Russians owe their good health and longevity to using beets a lot in cooking - especially soups.

Beet leaves, chopped onion and garlic, tomatoes and beet stems

Technically, raw beets are the best for you as cooking reduces some of their nutrients.  But there are still plenty of benefits left when you cook them.  I cut the stems and leaves off first and set aside.  I put the beets in a casserole pan and put in a 350 degree, pre-heated oven.  Depending upon how many beets you have and how big they are, I roast them for at least an hour.  Last night I had a large amount of beets and roasted at 300 degrees for 90 minutes.

Cook the leaves as you would fresh spinach

As your beets are about 10 minutes or so from being done I start with the leaves.  Yesterday I steamed the stems for about 5 minutes to make them tender.  Then I stir fried chopped onions till they started to soften.  I added chopped cherry tomatoes and garlic to the pan and swirled them around for a minute or so and then added the leaves.  Just like spinach, they reduce considerably.

You know me and lemons - gotta have 'em

Roasted red and yellow beets with salmon

In the future I'll post about squeezed beet juice.  This is the ultimate way to get the full health benefits of beets.  You have to be careful to work your way up slowly with beet juice - and you shouldn't drink it without mixers.  Beet, ginger, apple and celery are a great combination.

Chicken and broccoli with roasted beets

Beets heat up nicely the day after - so they're good for leftovers.  You can also slice them the next day and have them cold or at room temperature - mix with plain Greek yogurt - for a tasty snack or lunch.  


1 bunch of beets (they typically come 3 - 4 beets to a bunch)
3 cloves garlic chopped
1 small onion chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped cherry tomatoes
1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste


Chop off the leaves and stems from the beets and set aside

For the beets

Scrub the beats to remove excess dirt - do not peel
Dry off with a paper towel
Place in casserole pan lined with parchment paper (for easy clean up) and roast in a pre-heated 350 degree oven
Cook until tender - approximately 1 hour to 90 minutes (test with a fork)

For the leaves and stems

Cut away the stems from the leaves
Steam the stems for approximatley 5 minutes, until tender - set aside

When beets are about 5 - 10 minutes from completion start on the leaves

Pre-heat a non stick pan over medium heat for approximatley 3 minutes
Add the olive oil
Add the chopped onions; cook until translucent
Add the cherry tomatoes
Add the garlic
Add the steamed beet stems
Add the leaves; swirl around in the pan
Squeeze the juice from the lemon over the mixture; toss lemon into pan
Salt and pepper to taste
Everything should be done in about 5 minutes