Thursday, September 30, 2010

Eat them--or else! Eight quick, easy and tasty ways to prepare vegetables.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a report that only 26% of American adults eat vegetables three or more times a day.  This comes at a time when the government just recently upped its nutrition guidelines--recommending that people eating a 2000 calorie eat 4 1/2 cups of vegetables a day.  A recent New York Times article explored why people do not eat vegetables despite the health benefits, the push to do so by doctors and the government, and the availability of convenience vegetables in ready to steam bags.  The response--vegetables just do not taste good. I respectfully disagree.

Well--maybe I am a freak of nature, but I love vegetables (brussel sprouts are my favorite). So, here are a few of my favorite ways to prepare veggies. Most of the following methods are quick and easy and do not involve steaming or drowning the vegetables in cheese.  When sauteeing or baking--I operate on the premise that less is more.  Vegetables are gross when they are over-cooked and mushy, so avoid this.

1) If it is green--it will more than likely taste good sauteed or baked with a little bit of salt, pepper, olive oil and fresh lemon juice.  This works especially well with green beans, aspargus and brussel sprouts.

2) Sautee green beans or sliced zucchini in a little bit of olive oil, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.  Toss in grape or cherry tomatoes whole and sautee them for about three minutes towards the end.  The tomatoes roast in their skins and are very flavorful.  Sometimes to add a little bit of zip--I use a dash of red pepper flakes as well.

3)  Sautee green beans or asparagus in olive oil, salt and pepper.  When you have about a minute left, add chopped parsley, lemon juice and parmesean cheese.  If you don't have any parsley--the plain parmesean works. 

4) Take your favorite green vegetable, a little bit of olive oil, maybe a little salt and pepper and bake it in the oven with your favorite spice blend.  Penzey's Spices has some great ones--but just a little bit of Italian seasoning can go a long ways.

5) Peel and slice sweet potatoes french fry style and bake them in a 400 degree oven with thyme, salt, pepper and a teeny tiny amount of cayenne pepper for about 40 minutes. 

6) Cut tomatoes in wedges and toss them in a little red wine vinegar and olive oil.  Add a little feta cheese or maybe some black olives. 

7) Stir fry any combination of bell peppers, brocolli, cauliflower, onions, mushrooms, pea pods or carrots in a little bit of teriyaki or general tso sauce.

8) Dip raw veggies in a little bit of hummus, ranch or plain greek yogurt flavored with your favorite spices.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Restaurant Review: Town Talk Diner

Saturday night was spent at the Town Talk Diner.  If you have not been, you should go!  This little gem is a diner, with a little bit of foodie fare.

Food:   We started out with meatloaf sliders, which were little baguettes topped with mashed potatoes, savory meatloaf and my favorite part--the tomato marmalade.  The tomato marmalade added a really bold twist to which could have been a very basic appetizer.  I think I could have eaten this appetizer for lunch or something--so good! 

For an entree I enjoyed a smoked pork chop on a bed of beets, fennel, currants, yukon potatoes, apples and bacon.  I was slightly uneasy about the apples and currants, but they added so much flavor! All of the flavors worked really well together--the one thing I would have taken out is the bacon.  As much as I love bacon, it was just a little too much pork.

Charlie enjoyed a ribeye on a bed of smashed potatoes, with green beans, braised radishes and red pepper puree.  The steak was incredibly tender and flavorful.  You really can not go wrong with smashed potatoes--but Town Talk's are execeptionally good.  My favorite part of Charlie's meal--the red pepper puree.  I wish I could use it in place of ketchup.  The braised radishes were also suprisingly good.  I do not even like radish--but these were great.  I just might try to mimic them!

We skipped dessert because we were so full...

Service:  One thing about Town Talk is they do not take reservations, so when we got there at about 8 pm, we had a short wait.  It was only 10 minutes, so really not anything to complain about.  Our server was great.  I love when you ask a server for a suggestion and they tell you something definite.  To me it means they are enthusiastic about the food they are serving.  Our server directed both of us to great entrees that we really enjoyed.  He was helpful without being too intrusive.

Prices: Town Talk's prices are great for what you get.  You get a quality meal that is creative and enjoyable for a good price.  The flavor and the presentation make you feel like you should be paying more. The entrees range from $10-$21, so it is possible to enjoy a solid meal that is inexpensive.

Atmosphere:  When you first walk into Town Talk, you feel like you are stepping into trendy diner.  The decor is minimal, which is a nice change from the restaurants that try just a little too hard.  It gets slighly loud, but after awhile you do not even notice it, and it just sort of works.  It is a great spot for people watching--quite the variety!

Town Talk Diner--you should check it out.  I highly recommend!
2707 1/2 East Lake Street
Minneapolis, MN 55406

Monday, September 20, 2010

What do you think of genetically modified salmon?

The FDA is considering approving genetically modified salmon for sale in the United States.  It would be the first genetically modified animal approved for human consumption.  This particular salmon grows nearly twice as fast as a normal salmon due to genetic alteration.

Personally--I can live with genetically modified fruits, vegetables and grains.  I have resigned myself to the fact they are nearly impossible to avoid and perhaps necessary to feed our growing planet.  However, when it comes to animals, I draw the line. Critics are concerned about the possible decimation of wild salmon populations, food allergies, the health of the fish, and growth hormones.

My biggest problem is the possibility that if approved, the fish will not be labeled as genetically modified.  Producers do not have to label foods as genetically modified unless they are substantially different, and the FDA claims that this fish is not any different than its wild sisters in the Atlantic.  The biotechnology industry says that labeling would only confuse a population that does not understand genetic modification of organisms.  I argue that it is the biotechnology industry's job to make the case for genetically modified organisms, the FDA's job to protect the general public and my job to make any informed choice about what I eat.  I worry that this is only a slippery slope leading to the introduction of genetically modified pigs, cows and chickens. 

So what to do?  If you care--let the FDA know what you think.  Click on "Submit Comment" at the top of the page. 

My information for this post came from:
The Star Tribune
The Washington Post

Friday, September 17, 2010


Epicurious is easily one of my favorite cooking sites.  There are thousands of different recipes to choose from.  Each recipe has reviews left by people who have tried the recipe and they often offer tips to improve the recipe. Sometimes I use the site when I have some ingredients that I would like to use--for instance, I had a lot of zucchini and some fresh salmon, so I typed those terms into the search feature and all of a sudden I had several recipes that used both zucchini and salmon.  The same concept works if you had something you really liked at a restaurant and want to make something similar at home. Additionally, the site allows you to browse recipes by category (e.g. "healthy" or "quick & easy").  I also love some of the tools such as the Food Dictionary and the Wine Pairing resource. 

There is also a great app for Android users (and probably iPhone too) that I find really useful.  You can use the Epicurious App to pull up recipes while you are cooking rather than printing them out or even worse, dragging your laptop into the kitchen.  You can also add recipes to a "shopping list" or pull up the recipe at the grocery store if you are questioning whether you have something. I can't say enough good things about this website (and the smartphone application).  It has been a wonderful tool during my cooking adventures. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Pizza Soup

First off, I would like to apologize for not posting for awhile.  I have been busy getting into a school a routine and hopefully that routine will include the occassional blog post. 

I found this recipe while I was craving pizza after wisdom teeth extraction.  It definitely hit the spot.  I found the recipe here, but that author adapted it for her family living in Africa from the original.  Anyways--this recipe is great and should hit the spot on the cooler nights. 

1 14 oz jar of pizza sauce (I prefer the Contadina brand)
3 jars of water
1 can of tomato sauce
3 oz of pepperoni (I like to use the Hormel Turkey pepperoni because it has less fat)
1 green bell pepper
8 oz mushrooms sliced
1/2 pint of grape tomatoes quartered (or a can of diced tomatoes)
1 zucchini sliced and quartered (optional)
1/2 yellow onion diced
shredded mozzarella cheese to sprinkle on top
10 chopped fresh basil leaves 
1/2 tsp fresh oregano 
(you can use 1 tablespoon of Italian Seasoning in place of the fresh herbs)
Salt & Pepper to taste
1/2 pound of dried pasta (I had gnocchi in my pantry and used that and recommend if possible)

1) In large pot combine pizza sauce, tomato sauce and three jars of water.  Let it simmer on the stove on medium heat. 
2) Meanwhile chop up veggies, herbs and pepperoni and throw in the simmering broth.  Add seasonings as well.
3) Let simmer until veggies are tender, about 30 minutes. Then turn the heat up, and when the soup is really simmering, add the pasta.  Cook for 7-9 minutes or until pasta is al dente.   
4) Serve with shredded mozzarella on top.

-You can add any vegetable you feel is missing or subtract ones you do not like.
-Feel free to experiment with meats.  Ground turkey with Italian seasoning, Italian sausage or roast chicken would all be good in this soup.
-This soup will serve 3-4 people, but if it is just you it holds up well in the fridge or freezer to bring to work or school for lunch. 
-I like a heartier more flavorful soup, but if you would like something lighter, skip the tomato sauce.
-This recipe is also great for a crock pot.  Throw all of the ingredients in the crock pot, except the pasta, turn to low and cook for 7-9 hours.  Right before you want to serve it, turn the crock pot to high and throw in the pasta.  Cook until pasta is al dente, about 30 minutes.