Super Foods – Part 3 – Asparagus and Avocados



Super Foods Part 3 – yummy ways to eat yourself into better shape!

I didn’t invent these lists, for that I must give credit to Rebecca Katz’s “The Longevity Kitchen” and my favorite source for advice to the aging – the AARP Magazine. But the comments are all mine!

Food 9: Asparagus
The problem with Asparagus – it makes your pee smell! Otherwise – it’s the best food ever. Low calorie, elegant, sophisticated, and if it wasn’t for that very unfortunately ‘smell’ problem – I’d love it every day. And best of all – it’s a Super Food. A natural diuretic (makes you pee), it’s high in B12 and Potassium – seriously important for cell repair. Plus B12 has been shown to boost the auditory system – if you have low levels of B12 in your blood – you are 39% more likely to have hearing issues.

Food 10: Avocados
Unfortunately – Avocados are high in fat – but eaten in moderation (like in the recipe below), they are great sources of glutathione – and antioxidant that improves overall hormone function. So – win some, lose some. But since Avocados are delicious – I say – why not up the fat just a bit – in exchange for better hormone function. You can just walk it off!

Recipe from Allrecipes: Asparagus Angel Hair Pasta!

Makes 8 servings – takes 30 minutes start to finish!

16 oz package of angel hair pasta
1/4 cup extra virgin Olive Oil (Super Food # 4)
2 cloves garlic, minced (Super Food # 6)
1 pound fresh asparagus – trimmed and chopped
2 cups grape tomatoes
1 quart of chicken broth
1 tsp dried dill weed
ground pepper to taste
2 avocados – peeled, pitted, and mashed
1/2 lime, juiced
1/2 tsp garlic powder (got to love that Super Food)
1 cup shredded white Mexican Cheese (substitute any bland cheese here!)

Step 1: Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta, cook 5 to 6 minutes, drain and toss with t tbs of olive oil.

Step 2: Heat remaining 3 tbs of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, and cook the garlic for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the asparagus and tomatoes, stirring to coat. Pour in the broth, continue cooking uncovered 10 minutes, or until the asparagus is tender by still bright green.

Step 3: Place pasta in a large bowl, toss in asparagus and tomato mixture. Season with dill and pepper. In a separate bowl, mix the avocados, lime juice, and garlic powder together until blended.

Step 4: Serve pasta with a dollop of the avocado mixture, and top with shredded cheese.

6 Movies in 10 Hours! Why would one do that?



Clearly – I was stuck on an airplane with individual TV’s! So I indulged: Stardust, Star Trek Into Darkness, Parental Guidance, the Big Wedding, Legend of Sarila, and finally The Internship.

The only seriously good movie on the list was Stardust – and that’s based on the awesome performance by Michelle Pfeiffer as the wicked witch. I can’t help but feel sympathy when she tries to ‘magic’ away an age spot – and ends up with sagging breasts! I also must admit to a fondness for Robert de Niro’s “poffy” captain of the airship. Charmont to say the least.

“The internship”, my second favorite on the list, is a fairly predictable but still amusing outing by Owen Wilson – typecast as the hopeless endearing shaggy mop-man, but still a glimpse into what it must be like to do an internship at Google with a job as the high-stake prize. Having super smart kids who are struggling with the shrinking job market – their predicament is all too real. If only it was as easy as winning a soccer match, or selling a pizza place on advertising with Google.

The worst of the bunch – and that’s saying a lot because it’s hard to find something good to say about Parental Guidance, is the Star Trek mishap. Fancy visual effects aside – and managing to take down a good portion of San Francisco without ‘killing’ anyone is a pretty weird bit of story telling – the fake romance between Uhura and Spock is so decidedly off-putting and off-story that it makes the rest of the movie ignor-able. How can I believe Kirk is real when there’s this strange back-story? I’m amazed to see that Rotten Tomatoes managed to get past that bit of insanity, but I just couldn’t.

Middle of the road – and really the saving grace is the believable scenery – is the ‘cartoon’ feature – Legend of Sarila. I’ve actually traveled into Northern Quebec, Nunavik, and Greenland. And I can tell you first hand – it actually looks like that. Even the oil lamp/bowl looks exactly like items we saw the Inuit using. Yes it’s a legend – but the story it tells – and the people it portrays are real. Problems? Well – it’s too clean, it’s too simple, and Sedna – a major goddess to the Inuit – is too easy to please. But as a kid friendly introduction to a life that most of us can’t imagine trying to live – this movie does work.

As for Parental Guidance and the Big Wedding. Skip’m!

Super Foods Part 2 – yummy yourself into better health



I didn’t invent these lists, for that I must give credit to Rebecca Katz’s “The Longevity Kitchen” and my favorite source for advice to the aging – the AARP Magazine. But the comments are all mine!

Food 5: Kale
Ok – not one of my favorite veggies – so I’m more into hiding it than featuring it – but Kale is a definite Super Food. It’s rich in vitamin K (for Kale) – which is essential for blood clotting. Kale also contains lutein – which reduced the risk of cataracts and eye disorders. A surprising fact – one serving of Kale has almost 3 times the amount of Lutin as Raw Spinach. (So if you have to pick between Spinach and Kale – pick Kale!)

Food 6: Garlic
Not just for scaring off Vampires – Garlic is a great Super Food – and you can use it just about anywhere. It contains antioxidants, and antimicrobials. And when it’s crushed, it releases allicin, which wards off heart attacks, strokes – and vampires!

Food 7: Thyme
Beyond being famous for being in the title of a song from Simon and Garfunkle, Thyme fights bacteria. And in tincture form, it has recently been found to be effective in the treatment of acne. Pretty sure you don’t want to put the food on your face – but still, interesting to know, eh?

Food 8: Dark Chocolate
Ok – this is clearly my favorite Super Food. Honestly – ask me to eat more dark chocolate – I’m so there! Notice its dark chocolate – not milk and not white – that’s good for you. It’s lower in calories, rich in flavonoids, can aid in decreasing blood pressure and cholesterol levels. And – at the 60% or more cocoa level – it may reduce heart attacks and strokes in high risk individuals if consumed daily. Let’s see – daily consumption of dark chocolate. I can handle that.

Another yummy recipe from MyRecipes.com using 3 of the 4 Super Foods described above!

Whole-wheat Lasagna with Butternut Squash and Kale

You can assemble and chill the lasagna a day ahead, but add 10 to 15 minutes to the baking time. You can also freeze the lasagna, wrapped well in plastic wrap, for up to 1 month and bake it frozen (add 1 1/4 hours to the oven time).

Yield: Makes 8 servings
Total: 2 Hours

Recipe Time
Total: 2 Hours
Nutritional Information
Amount per serving
Calories: 424
Calories from fat: 38%
Protein: 20g
Fat: 18g
Saturated fat: 7.4g
Carbohydrate: 51g
Fiber: 8g
Sodium: 659mg
Cholesterol: 39mg

Ingredients

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided $
1 medium red onion, peeled and sliced
3 peeled garlic cloves (1 minced, 2 left whole)
2 cans (14 oz. each) crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
About 1 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper, divided
6 cups (about 2 lbs.) butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-in. cubes
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 pound Lacinato kale (often sold as dinosaur or Tuscan kale)
9 whole-wheat lasagna noodles (about 8 oz.)
1 container (15 oz.) part-skim-milk ricotta cheese
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 400°. Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a 2- to 3-qt. pot over medium heat. Add onion and minced garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and translucent, 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, oregano, and 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer until thick and flavors are combined, about 30 minutes. Set aside.
2. While sauce is cooking, in a 12- by 15-in. baking pan, sprinkle squash with thyme, remaining olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Add garlic cloves and toss squash mixture to coat with oil. Bake until soft, 10 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, bring 3 qts. salted water to a boil in a large pot.
3. Reduce oven temperature to 350°. Transfer squash and garlic to a food processor and purée until smooth.
4. Tear kale leaves from center ribs and discard ribs. Boil leaves until soft, 5 to 8 minutes. Drain; let cool. Squeeze out as much water as possible and chop finely.
5. In the same pot, bring another 3 qts. salted water to a boil. Add noodles and cook until tender to the bite, about 10 minutes. Drain; rinse with cold water.
6. In a bowl, mix ricotta, nutmeg, 1 cup mozzarella, and remaining 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper.
7. Coat the bottom of a 9- by 13-in. pan with 1/3 of tomato sauce (about 1 1/2 cups). Lay 3 noodles in a single layer over sauce. Top noodles with squash, spreading evenly. Sprinkle 1/2 of kale evenly over squash. Arrange 3 more noodles on kale and top with ricotta, spreading evenly. Top with remaining kale and noodles. Cover noodles with remaining tomato sauce and sprinkle with remaining 1 cup mozzarella.
8. Bake lasagna until juices are bubbling and cheese is melted, about 30 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing.
Note: Nutrition analysis is per 4 1/2- by 4 1/2-in. serving.

Le Papillon in San Jose – Expensive, Great Service, B rated food!



We wanted something a bit old-school – and in theory Le Papillion should have been perfect. Like so many other restaurants in San Jose – it’s location is not the best – there’s nothing within walking distance but a furniture store and a 7-11. But the older home that has been renovated into this charming restaurant is glorious inside. The dinning ‘room’ is all muted gold, brown, and white – with cali lilys on each table and a huge floral arrangement taking up the center area of one of the rooms.

There’s a bar area that doubles as a semi-private dining room, and an outdoor area that I imagine must be for people needing a smoke, and wanting a location that’s more elegant than the driveway.

Waiters wearing tuxes, including our pleasant young waitress who was proudly 7 months pregant, made the elegant atmosphere even more refined. And I must say I totally appreciated the no cell phone policy – which didn’t distract from picture taking given the ‘special night’ atmosphere. The clever use of a single lit candle to take a dessert offering from elegant to Congradulations was totally in tune with the atmosphere.

I just wish the food had been of similar quality.

My duck entre was tough – I badly needed a sharper knife, and there was none on offer. My quail appetizer featured a farro base – too much farro, not enough Quail. The result was like having oatmeal served with a marsalla reduction. Weird. But most truly disappointing were the desserts. The ‘souffle’ was mostly egg white, although given the number we saw served, not a problem for most diners. I guess people just have forgotten what a real souffle should be. My berry Coulis looked lovely, and the berries were lovely – but the commerically produced pastry cup was stale tasting. At this price range – not acceptable.

On the other hand – my husband thought his beef tenderloin was quite good.

We also tried the ‘gourmet’ cheese course. With all the wonderful artisan California cheese producers around – how could they just give us commercial cheese of relatively common quality. At least one surprise would have been appreciated.

So – beautiful restaurant, very energetic service, so-so food at a fairly high price. I give them a B – and that’s generous.

Oh well.

Le Papillon on Urbanspoon

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Moroccan with Attitude – the Aziza in San Francisco



My kids have been trying for years to get us to go to the Aziza, and the stars finally aligned this weekend. What a treat!

Lots larger than it looks at first – but still relatively small – the Aziza is located on Geary Blvd, close to the Presidio park with its miles and miles of walking trails. Geary Blvd, at least in the area near the Aziza is a motley collection of Russian shops, low-end grocery stores, and intriguing shops. From the outside, the Aziza appears to be just another darkened doorway among many others, but inside it sparkles with subdued elegance and quiet elegance. Even full, the noise level was acceptable, the feeling a low-level comfortable sophistication completely in tune with the emphasis on fancy bar drinks (like a muddled Fig option) and contemporary cuisine.

I had to take a picture of the menu – it’s that distinctive. Rather than giving the name of the dish – the options just listed the ingredients – eggplant, caper, tomato, gypsy pepper – for example. No indication on how the food would be prepared – for that you must trust the chef.

Under the kids guidance, we opted for the 13 course tasting menu. It made for a long meal – we arrived at 5:30 and left at 8:30 – but it was well worth both the price and the patience. Stunning pretty much sums it up.

Presentation is clearly their strong suit – and I was so consistently amazed – I forgot to take pictures! For example – our 1st course – described as rice cracker, yogurt, corn, coffee – was served on a rock glass that had a piece of plastic stretched over the top to create a ‘plate’. The cracker was then perched on top – appearing to float in the air. Delicious – and amazing. Great combination.

My personal favorite courses were the Scallops (I ate mine – and my son’s), the sous-vide egg, and the deserts. Oh man, the deserts. We ordered one off the a la carte menu – a blackberry creation that was delicious, and then enjoyed the 2 desserts that came with the tasting menu.

I can’t guarantee that anything we had will show up on the menu when you arrive – but I can assure you that the presentation will be worth the wait for a reservation. Go. Enjoy. Go Again!

Aziza on Urbanspoon

Foodio54 Note – the address is right – the name is different! (and it’s been the Aziza for years..)

Kasbah on Foodio54

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A restaurant worth Blogging about – Zeni in San Jose, CA



Ever eaten ‘Ethiopian’? Me neither. So when my son and brand new daughter-in-law suggested we try their favorite restaurant on our trip to visit them this week – we were delighted to accept. And what a meal it was!

First a bit about the restaurant. It’s located in a mall (not totally surprising around here – there are lots of restaurants in malls) in a rather laid back and lower-income section of San Jose. As my son joked – it’s the ‘wrong’ side of the tracks. But once thru the front door – the restaurant exudes love, warmth, and welcome. From the smiling staff in their very attractive bright blue blouses to the gentleman playing jazz on 3 – count’m 3 – keyboards in the corner, this is a delightful space.

There are 2 sections to the restaurant – and we were fortunate to score a table in the more traditional section with its wicker tables and low stools. These are perfectly suited to the very traditional way the meal is served – on a single large platter with a pancake like flat bread serving as the base on which the food is lovingly placed. Along with that pancake (intended to be used to mop up the remains of the meal) they gave us a basket of rolled flat breads. The basic idea – use the bread to grab the food – and good luck getting it from the platter to your mouth!

Cautioned by our kids to be careful about ordering too much food – we opted for just 3 main courses for the 4 of us – a vegetable combo, a lamb dish (stewed lamb in a curry like sauce), and a spicy beef dish that came with home-made cheese. We also ordered one appetizer to share – a filo dough pastry stuffed with meat. Everything – and I mean everything was totally yummy. I particularly liked some of the vegetable options – colorful and tasty, they were a delight to the palette. But I’m ready to eat Eggplant under just about any condition.

What was most surprising – beside the extremely reasonable price of just $70 for everything – including 2 drinks – was how incredibly filling the meal was. Despite our cautious ordering – we simply could not finish everything.

According to my kids – who apparently eat here regularly – coming early is critical. If you arrive around 7:15 – you can expect to wait in line – a truth that was obvious as we left, pushing our way thru waiting customers!

Another note – during the day they offer a ‘coffee’ ceremony that must be ordered at least 24 hours in advance – costs $40 for up to 10 people – and includes a server who roasts the beans right in front of you. My husband was keen to come back to try that – and I must agree – it would be cool to watch.

Definitely an A restaurant – do check it out!

Zeni Ethiopian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Super Foods – Part 1



Yummy ways to eat yourself into better shape!

I didn’t invent these lists (there are 16 Super Foods in total), for that I must give credit to Rebecca Katz’s “The Longevity Kitchen” and my favorite source for advice to the aging – the AARP Magazine. But the comments are all mine!

Food 1: Coffee. Don’t need much to convince me that life without coffee isn’t worth living. But it’s nice to know that in addition to caffeine – there’s some good stuff – including antioxidants that can protect against cell damage and reduce your risk of chronic diseases like diabetes.

Food 2: Wild Salmon: It’s not just that it is a fish – and everyone knows that you should eat more fish – it’s also omega-3 fatty acid heavy (good not just for your heart, but also possibly a way to keep your DNA healthy).

Food 3: Sweet Potatoes: I admit – I just really prefer the taste of Sweet Potatoes over the plain boring white ones. But it’s seriously nice to consider that sweet potatoes have lots of Vitamin B6 and potassium. They can even help regulate blood pressure. And when eaten with the skin ON, they have more fiber than a copy of oatmeal.

Food 4: Olives/Olive Oil: Known to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, Olive Oil may even reduce the risk of stroke by up to 41%.

Need dinner tonight with 3 of the 4 super foods?
Try Salmon Burritos with Chile-Roasted Vegetables from MyRecipes.com. This recipe is rated as Outstanding!

The usual rice is replaced with pan-roasted sweet potatoes, onions, and poblano chiles, giving this burritos a healthy dose of fiber as well as heart-protecting micronutrients such as carotenoids (in the sweet potatoes), flavonoids (onions), folic acid (cabbage), and omega-3 fatty acids (salmon). Prep and Cook Time: about 45 minutes.

Nutritional Information – Amount per serving
Calories: 325
Calories from fat: 39%
Protein: 19g
Fat: 14g
Saturated fat: 2.5g
Carbohydrate: 30g
Fiber: 3.4g
Sodium: 852mg
Cholesterol: 45mg

Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons lime juice
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 1/2 teaspoons ground dried chiles
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 pound boned salmon fillet (about 1 in. thick) $
1 large Garnet or Jewel sweet potato, peeled, quartered lengthwise, then sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 zucchini, halved lengthwise, then sliced 1/3 inch thick
1 red onion, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick wedges
1 fresh poblano chile, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
6 whole-wheat flour tortillas (10 in. wide), warmed $
Chopped cilantro, shredded cabbage, low-fat sour cream, and lime wedges
Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 425°. Line two 12- by 15-inch baking pans with aluminum foil.
2. Whisk together the olive oil, lime juice, garlic, ground dried chiles, and salt.
3. Rinse salmon and pat dry. Brush flesh side of salmon with 2 tablespoons of the lime-chile marinade. Set aside.
4. In a medium bowl, toss the sweet potato, zucchini, onion, and chile with the remaining marinade. Arrange vegetables in a single layer on the baking pans.
5. Roast vegetables for 10 minutes, then add salmon, skin side down, to one pan and return to oven. Continue roasting until potatoes are tender when pierced and salmon is opaque but still moist-looking in center of thickest part, 7 to 10 minutes.
6. Remove skin from salmon and slice fillet into six equal portions.
7. Spoon vegetable mixture equally onto warm tortillas. Top each with a piece of salmon and a little cilantro, cabbage, and sour cream. Fold tortilla over the filling. Serve with more sour cream and the lime wedges.

Curious about the rest of the Super Foods? Stay tuned!

3 Hotels in 3 Days – Am I nuts or what?



Color me crazy – but I just slept in 3 different hotels in the last 3 nights. What would possess someone to do such a stupid thing? You can’t even take your clothes out of the suitcase – it almost isn’t worth even carrying the suitcase up to the room. Just grab the essentials and go.

Clearly – not my prefered way to travel. But my son got married in San Jose, CA on Thursday (GO Son GO!) and I had to get from Montreal to San Jose to Old Bedford, PA to Atlantic City to Montreal in 5 days. So 3 hotels it was going to be.

Hotel #1 – Ramada just off Highway 89 in Harrisburg, PA. We arrived at 12:30 – left at 8:00 – enjoyed the clean room, comfortable bed – awesome free breakfast (including make your own waffles and unlimited coffee and fruit), and free WI-FI. Perfect.

Hotel #2 – Hyatt Regency at the San Franciso Airport. Glorious hotel from the outside – it’s huge! There’s an inside atrium the size of a small football field, extending up 3 floors. 1/2 the rooms overlook the atrium – with mini balconys you can open to stop out into the ‘inside’. Quiet, very comfy bed, loved the oversized bathroom, great toilet featured low and high flush options, free water and fruit at check-in. Didn’t care for the $25 a day ‘valet’ service, and they charge for WI-FI. Breakfast also was extra. But I slept well. That has to count for something. Not quite as prefect as that Ramada though.

Hotel #3 – Marriott at Dulles Airport. Nothing much to look at from the outside, but at least the parking was free. It was extremely quiet – so clearly they have great windows since we are literally feet from the landing strips. Bed was comfy – since we arrived at 8:00 am and checked out at noon (after a red-eye flight from San Francisco) – quiet and comfy was just right. But the bathroom was tiny, the toilet didn’t flush quite right, the WI-FI is free only in the bar, and there wasn’t even a bowl of fruit to welcome us. Lousy shower too.

So bottom line – Ramada tops the list – but there weren’t any clear loosers. I do think that Marriott ought to be a tad embarassed though.

Surprisingly good Pub Food and Great Beer – Summer Fun



The Vermont Pub and Brewery has been around for over 25 years – so the question is – how come I never ate there before? Answer – I thought it was more bar than restaurant – and I thought wrong.

It was one of those priceless Vermont summer evenings – daylight seems to last forever, and when the sun finally does decide to go down, the air still has that soft summer feel to it. I asked advice of Roger – the guy trying to sell me a Prius (more on that later) – and he recommended the Pub. I figured – why not!

I scored an outside table, and settled in for an easy evening. The newspaper cum menu was a nice start – and listed on the board was a yummy sounding Cajun Catfish for just $11.95. Ok – I could seriously handle that.

According to the informative menu (Prohibition ended on April 7, 1933 among other brew based tidbits) – the VPB has won lots of awards for their home brewed beer – and for just $1.25 they will give you a sample of any one of their flavors. You can even order a flight of samples. I opted for just one- their award winning, and car salesman suggested, Burly Irish Ale. Described as rich and malty – it was a small yet delightfully filling way to end my day. For dinner I tried their fried oysters (skip those next time), and for my main course – choose the catfish. That was exactly the right decision. The catfish was perfectly cooked – white and flaky, rich and delicious, perfectly seasoned. The potion of sweet potato fries was way too large – but they were delicous too.

Service was perfect – fast when needed, and they ignored me completely when I wanted to be ignored.

A B+ (fried oysters were just too thickly breaded to rate an A, beer was way too delicious to just give them a B. So B+ it is!)

Hana – Sushi in Burlington, VT – bit of a hit and miss at a great price



We did our research, and the Hana – an oversized empty space located in a shopping mall just off the highway in Burlington – got decent comments. So we ventured out – looking for a relatively inexpensive late lunch.

The restaurant was completely empty – but given the crazy hour we were there – I can’t say I was completely surprised. We were greeted with a smile – and presented with what I suspect was the dinner menu. Oh well – we were late.

Rather than order 2 differnt maki’s – we ordered a combo platter to share. This was probably a mistake. I suspect that the maki’s were pre-made left overs from lunch time. My fault – I know to avoid that beginners mistake, but I was too tired to even fuss.

The good news – service was very nice and the miso soup was delicous. The bad news – the restaurant is cold and forbidding – too bad they haven’t thought of some way to make it feel more welcoming. And the best that can be said about our Combo Platter is that it was acceptable.

I might give them another try anyway – judging a restaurant on off hours is a bit tough, even for me.

A C – with hopes of doing better next time.