Sunday, November 27, 2011

Going Bananas in Cleveland

It was a wonderful Thanksgiving in Cleveland. I ate in and I ate out. I took a moment to enjoy all the beauty which can be found in our city. All the while I felt grateful for my family, the delicious meal we shared, and the fun and culture we have at our fingertips living here in Cleveland.

We spent Thanksgiving at my house. This meal takes a lot of preparation, but, it is so gratifying for me to be able to do this for my family once a year.

Some tasty snackies prior to dinner......

B's delicious smoked turkey.... so glad it didn't rain.

Pear, Gorgonzola, and toasted pecan salad.... my favorite side dish.

On Friday, the weather was unsusually nice for this time of year(last year at this time we had a blizzard). So, we took a break from eating and walked off that Thanskgiving meal at the Cleveland Botanical Gardens. Here are some pretty pictures......

I hate to say goodbye to fall but these Pointsettias are helping me to warm up to the idea of Christmas. This is what its all about.

As others were fighting it out in Walmarts around the country over "Black Friday" deals, I gazed up to see blue skies and this guy.

My sweet teens taking a break from their cell phones to actually speak to each other. It is the little things that warm my heart over the holidays.

Nothing makes me feel more happy than a room full of butterflies! I will make it to Costa Rica one of these years.

And to top off a great weekend, I ate at a fantastic Tai restaurant in Ohio City called the Banana Blossom!

More pretty pictures.....

We started off the meal with some Edamame lightly steamed and salted.

My sister had the Lemongrass Chicken. The chicken was marinated with lemongrass and grilled. It is served over vegetables and topped with spinach.

Although I am curious about curry dishes, I must confess that I usually shy away from curries because there are so many different types. I just wasn't sure how each of them differs. This menu has a "create your own curry" section which was complete with detailed descriptions of each type. They have 5 different curry sauces as follows: red curry, yellow curry, green curry, Massaman curry, and Panang curry. I chose salmon and vegetables simmered in the green curry. It was amazing... It was much sweeter than curried dishes I had tried in the past. The waiter even had the chef prepare the salmon the way I like it. And check out the carrot garnish( a bird shape) below.

Overall, I completely enjoyed this restaurant. It gets a 10 for service, creativity, and flavor. The menu is quite expansive, so, there are about 10 other things I would like to try. They are open for lunch and seemed to have a busy "take out" business. You could say I've gone "bananas" over Banana Blossom. Ha, ha.... time to end this post.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Trader Joe's Saves the Day!

I went through 10 years of catholic school, so I am very familiar with guilt. We have had some really busy weeknights these last few weeks in my house making it difficult to have family dinners. It is so much easier to pull up to the Chick Filet drive thru. However, the guilt of not making a healthy dinners kind of gets to me. That's why I am so grateful to have Trader Joe's for their simple but healthy sauces and dinner kits. This meal took 10 minutes to make and was really flavorful thanks to this tasty sauce below...

Step 1: Stir fried my already cut-up vegetables from Trader Joe's. I like to stir fry using vegetable broth instead of oil

Step 2: Added my chopped chicken breast to the pan along with the Tai Red Curry sauce.

Step 3: Served over Trader Joe's already cooked Jasmine rice(found in the refrigerated section). They also had this in brown rice which would be an even healthier choice.

Serve to your fam- guilt free!

Friday, October 14, 2011

La Petit Triangle- Oooh baby!

I have never been to France but, I would imagine that its cafes look something like the scene above. I read about La Petit Triangle in a local newspaper doing an article on good happy hour places. This struck me as an usual pick for happy hour, so I have been intrigued ever since. Unfortunately, I haven't made it for happy hour, but, I did meet my sisters and mom there for a mini baby shower. My sister is due any day now with baby boy #2. Yeh!

Anyhow, this quaint Ohio City restaurant is warm and cozy and a great place to spend a rainy afternoon. Or a sunny one out on the sidwalk patio. It has the wonderful aroma of French roast and crepes in the air. You can see the chef above working her magic on the crepes. I have a hard time making crepes so I am more than happy to sit back and watch her make them for me. She was so calm and collected preparing crepes solo for the entire restaurant.

We started off our lunch with some bellinis and the soup of the day. Bellinis are a peach nectar drink with champagne. AMAZING! There was also a nice selection of french wines(will definitely have to go back). The soup was a roasted pork and vegetable soup.

Next, onto the entrees... this was a tough decision. There are a number of crepes and omelets both sweet and not. There are some classic French dishes such as Croque Monsieur( grilled ham and Gruyre cheese) and cassoulets. We had a chicken cheddar buckwheat crepe with a mango chutney. A side couscous salad was equally good.

There are a lot of options for vegetarians as well. My entree was a spinach, tomato, and chevre omelet with Lyonnaise potatoes. Also delicious.

But, the highlight of the meal was this pumpkin latte! This probably should not be on a blog called skinny eats as it definitely was not. It was the best tasting coffee drink I have ever had. I'm guessing there was lots of cream involved. Maybe come and have with a salad? Anyhow, we had great service on top of good food so I will definitely come back. The hardest decision will be.... do I go back for wine and apps, coffee and dessert, or breakfast and bellinis? You can't go wrong with any of those options, so give it a try. Bring out your inner Parisian!

Congrats to my sis on her upcoming little one! We can't wait to meet him.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

La Campagna!

Laura Taxel, author of Cleveland Ethnic Eats, is my new hero! I had gone to hear her speak a couple of months ago at the library. Someone in the crowd asked for a recommendation for an Italian restaurant on the westside of Cleveland and she replied, "La Campagna"!

So last night was B's birthday and I surprised him by taking him to a restaurant that we have never been to. In fact, he had never heard of the restaurant. It was risky..... but it turned out to be great. Better than great.... amazing!

La Campagna is a little Italian restaurant tucked into an average looking shopping center in Westlake. It a tiny little place that you would never look twice at. Laura Taxel described it as a gift shop by day and restaurant by night. It is family owned and everything is made to order. The owners shop daily(from local vendors) and try to use foods which are organic when available. The menu changes everyday. Laura Taxel had recommended that a reservation be made because the restaurant might just close up if it has no customers coming. Another warning..... there is no written menu. They make a handful of entrees daily and they just list them for you. Now, I like this kind of adventurous eating, but, others may not. But, I will tell you that everything we ate was extraordinary!

We started off with a bottle of Syrah(above) and a fried pepper appetizer(below). The wine is purchased from the shop so it is not marked up and there is a large selection. This picture of the peppers does not do them justice. They were simply sauteed in olive oil with a generous sprinkling of sea salt. However, there was a nice combination of sweet yellows and reds along with some spicy Poblanos. So simple but delicious!

Next we ordered our entrees which were accompanied by salad and soup. B had a corn and clam chowder. I had the salad below. It was a nice mix of fresh greens, blueberries, and goat cheese. One of the owners was actually making the salad dressing, a balsamic with fresh figs, minutes before I received the salad! It was like eating at a family members house, except an extremely talented family member. I think I may have to adopt this family!

My entree was mussels in a fresh tomato broth. Also phenominal.

But B's dish was the award winner of the night. He ordered their clam bake. This clambake wasexceptional. Check out the lobster twice baked potato in the front of this plate. There was no skimping on the lobster. The chicken was cooked with some nice herbs and very moist. The corn was picked that day.

Needless to say... we were very happy customers!!!! The price was also a pleasant surprise. I intend on becoming one of the regulars at this spot.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Weight Watchers... a proven success.

A weight loss study that came out this week which indicates that Weight Watchers is one of the most effective methods for losing weight. 772 obese people were followed in Australia, Germany, and the UK over a years time. The results showed that those who followed Weight Watchers lost an average of 14.7 pounds as compared to those on standard diets who only lost about 7# after 12 months.

There was no information suggesting the reason for its success, but, I have to think it is a result of the weekly support that members receive. It is always easier to accomplish something difficult in numbers. Also, the weekly meetings provide lost of inspiration. Although I have never been a member of weight watchers, I really like the recipes. One of my favorite recipes is the Mozzarella Stuffed Turkey Meatloaf. It is easy, healthy, and low in cholesterol and fat. Oh, and it tastes good which is always helpful. Here are the steps....

1. Separate 2 egg whites into a bowl

2. Add 1 1/2# of ground turkey

3. Add 1/2 cup of minced onion

4. Add 1/2 c of bread crumbs

5. Add 1 c. of part-skim mozzarella

6. Add 10 oz of chopped frozen spinach(thawed and drained)

7. Add 1 T of Worcestershire sauce

8. Add 2 T of ketchup or spaghetti sauce

9. Mix all ingredients and pack into a greased loaf pan

10. Bake for 60 minutes at 375 degrees and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes.

Cut into even pieces and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

One more tomato recipe....

Oh Cleveland summers... how I hate to see you come to an end. Today was actually cold!!! That gazpacho soup I made last week is no longer appropriate for this week's weather. When I look over at the garden, I am seeing less and less red spots which makes me a bit sad. But, I still have a plate full of tomatoes, so, I am going to use them to the best of my ability.

I hope you all are not sick of tomato recipes because I have one more tomato soup recipe to share. It looks kind of simple but the flavors in this soup are sweet and tangy and delicious! It makes an easy weeknight dinner but could also be a great starter if you are having guests. You will not be sorry you made it in either scenario.

So here is the recipe for Tomato Rice Soup with Garlic and Herbs(William Sonoma).

  • Mince 1 small yellow onion

  • 1/2 c. of garlic cloves cut in halves

  • Warm 3T of olive oil and add the onion and garlic. Saute until soft for about 15 minute.

  • Add 2 1/2 cups fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped.

  • Add 3 cups of chicken stock and 1 cup of water. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes

  • Chop 3 T of mixed chopped fresh parsley and chives

  • Chop 1 T of fresh oregano and/or summer savory

  • Add 1/3 cup long-grain white rice and herbs to the soup

  • Simmer until the rice is cooked about 15-20 minutes

  • Add 1 T. red wine vinegar

  • Add 1/4 cup of a fruit red wine such as Zinfandel and salt and pepper to taste

  • Serve immediately!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Gazpacho Recipe

I am always amazed by the talent of chefs.... It is so cool the way they are able to know instinctively what ingredients blend well together. They also seem to be able to just rattle off the amounts of the ingredients without thinking twice. I, on the other hand, still need to follow recipes when I cook...most of the time. I'm O.K. with that. I love recipes! I especially love the recipe below. Yea, I know, its kind of raggedy. Its kind of stained and yellow. Its not pretty.

When I was in college in Louisville, KY, I was lucky enough to live next to a chef in training. One day I mentioned that I was looking for a good gazpacho recipe and he scratched this out for me in minutes. I have been using it for about 18 years! Thus, its ugly appearance.

This picture is a little more attractive. Gazpacho is from Spain and I've heard people call it "liquid salad" which describes it well. It can be served cold or at room temp and is great on the hottest days of summer. O.K. I'm done talking about it... the recipe is below.

Gazpacho Louisville

Blend the following ingredients in a blender or food processor:

4 tomatoes

2 cucumbers

1 bell pepper

1 carrot

1 pint of V8 juice(I like spicy)

2 T. Worcestershire sauce

1 dash of tobasco

1/2 t celery salt

1 t fresh garlic

2 t salt and 1 tsp pepper

Add these following ingredients to the soup chopped finely but not blended:

1 small onion minced

1 stalk of celery minced

1 tomato diced

dash of cumin

Garnish with cilantro if you like.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Coconut Oil???

Well, I have to say as much as I love health and wellness and have been working in this field for some time now.... I still become so confused and crazed with all the false advertising and confusing nutritional information that I hear daily in the media . Right? It can be so frustrating. It's no wonder people in this country are becoming more and more obese. We are bombarded with so many mixed messages. Who can decipher which bits of information are true and valuable?

Take coconut oil for example.... I am not exaggerating when I tell you that if there was a list of EVIL foods in my college dietetics courses, this would have been tops on the list. It is very high in saturated fat and therefore, puts people at risk for high cholesterol and weight gain.

So, that being said.... The other day, I received some coconut oil from one of my family members. I was taken aback at first... are they trying to upset me? Then she explained that she had heard how much better coconut oil is for you as compared to other oils. Huh?? She must be delirious. So, I took the coconut oil home(tried to keep an open mind) and decided to see what all the hype was about.

According to my most sound resource, The American Dietetics Association website, coconut oil still continues to be a food that high is saturated fat. It does, in fact, raise both the bad cholesterol(LDL) and good cholesterol(HDL). However, the fact that it raises both does not change the ratio of bad to good cholesterol. This is a good thing. So, in other words, it is probably not as bad as butter. And it has a pleasant coconutty flavor when you cook with it.

Another reason for the hype... it can be used by vegans as a butter substitute.

I found this recipe printed by the NY Times- Coconut Oil Roasted Sweet Potatoes....

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Peel and cut up 3 to 4 sweet potatoes into 1/2 in chunks

3. In a large bowl, combine 2 tsp of brown suger, 3/4 tsp kosher salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper, and 1/4 tsp nutmeg. Add 2 T. virgin coconut oil.

Toss in the cut-up sweet potato and mix gently mix until it is well coated. Spread the sweet potato chunks onto a baking sheet.

Roast in the 350 degree oven, until soft and carmelized, for about 1 hour.

Delicious! No butter needed.