Friday, December 31, 2010

Sun-Dried Tomato Dressing on Grilled Romaine

My best wishes to you for a happy and healthy NewYear. Let's make 2011 one of good health. Onward 2011!

The dressing:

1 large garlic clove,chopped
1 T chopped shallot
1 T balsamic, (I used Fustinis's 18 year old Traditional Balsamic Vinegar, WOW!)
1/2 C olive oil
5 sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil, chopped
1 t capers, drained
1/4 t fresh thyme leaves
1/8 - 1/4 t salt
pepper to taste

In a food processor, combine all of the ingredients except the olive oil. Process, slowly adding the oil.

The salad:

1 - 2 hearts of Romaine
olive oil
black olives, Kalamata or Gaeta, cut in half (optional)

Cut the Romaine in half. Brush the cut side with olive oil and grill quickly. Top the Romaine with the dressing and a few pitted and sliced black olives. Serve.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Marinated Mushrooms

My daughter and I were at Whole Foods when she decided to make a salad. One of the choices at the salad bar were marinated mushrooms. They were so good, I had to try my own hand at this appetizer. 

For this recipe I used a balsamic vinegar from Fustini's Oils and Vinegars. These vinegars and oils are famous here in Michigan, and for good reasons. They are amazing! At Fustini's  they have a wide selection of aged balsamic vinegars and the freshest extra virgin olive oils you can find. They import their products from artisans and small batch producers worldwide to their shops which are located in quaint cities like Traverse City, Petoskey, Holland and Ann Arbor. But you don't have to travel to any of these locations, because you can purchase these fine products on line. The website for Fustini's is:

I plan to serve this taste treat on New Year's Eve... a great start to a healthy year. 

Onward 2011!

2 large garlic cloves, halved lengthwise
1/2 C. white truffle extra virgin olive oil, or a good quality extra virgin olive oil
1 pound small button mushrooms, stems trimmed (if they are large, half or quarter so they are uniform in size)
1/4 C chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 t fresh tarragon, finely chopped
1 t fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 T fresh chives, finely chopped
1 T Sicilian Lemon Balsamic Vinegar, from Fustini's Oils and Vinegars
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic and sauté until golden, about 5 minutes. Discard the garlic. Increase heat to medium. Add the mushrooms and Italian parsley; stir often and sauté until mushrooms are golden, about 8 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cool  and transfer to a container; cover and chill until cold. (Can be made 2 days ahead) Drain mushrooms before serving.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette

Meg dropped off a butternut squash and a few pounds of potatoes that her sister Jean had harvested from her garden long ago. Let me tell you, having these beautiful vegetables delivered to my door in the middle of December really makes me want to dig up my back yard and sow a few seeds (not right now of course...). Anyway, I am thankful to Jean for thinking of me because we have enjoyed each and every bite, but I'm not done yet. I still have an enormous butternut squash that's large enough for two recipes. Half will be used in my butternut squash soup and the other in this recipe from Ina Garten that I copied from the Food Network website. Looks yummy doesn't it?  I can't wait.


  • 1 (1 1/2-pound) butternut squash, peeled and 3/4-inch) diced
  • Good olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons dried cranberries
  • 3/4 cup apple cider or apple juice
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 ounces baby arugula, washed and spun dry
  • 1/2 cup walnuts halves, toasted
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan (I will omit for myself, but use for my family)


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the butternut squash on a sheet pan. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, the maple syrup, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss. Roast the squash for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once, until tender. Add the cranberries to the pan for the last 5 minutes.

While the squash is roasting, combine the apple cider, vinegar, and shallots in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the cider is reduced to about 1/4 cup. Off the heat, whisk in the mustard, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.

Place the arugula in a large salad bowl and add the roasted squash mixture, the walnuts, and the grated Parmesan. Spoon just enough vinaigrette over the salad to moisten and toss well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Walking Meditation… Another stunning article by my Uncle Gene

Meditation helps. It may be a religious practice, but it is also part of many different therapies, ranging from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Cardiac Rehab, and addiction treatments. While meditation may be “targeted,” with some particular goal in mind, meditation best accomplishes its purposes when the meditator does it just for the sake of meditating, without any particular goal in mind. 

Perhaps the best way to practice meditation does not involve sitting, but a practice frequent among Buddhists called “walking meditation.” While one may meditate while walking in the woods or around a city block, it may be advisable to walk around in a circle somewhere, where the distractions will be minimal and concentration on breathing uninterrupted.
Walking around in circle, with minimal sensory stimuli, may enable you to enter the meditative state more easily than if you are comfortably seated, where the “relaxation response” may be doing more to calm your body than to focus your mind.

Walking has this benefit: we are the most sedentary society the world has known, and we sit for hours everyday, either at work, at meals, driving somewhere, or watching TV. Walking slowly around in a circle may do a better job for most of us in producing the calm that characterizes the meditative state.

There is abundant medical literature documenting the health benefits of meditation, beginning with Dr. Herb Benson’s The Relaxation Response and John Kabat-Zinn’s Full Catastrophe Living. Kabat-Zinn writes: “Walking meditation involves intentionally attending to the experience of walking itself. It involves focusing on the sensations in your feet or your legs or, alternatively, feeling your whole body moving.”

The famous French philosopher Jacques Maritain said: “Walking is a meditative habit unknown to Americans.” That was years ago, and by now, Americans have taken up the habit of walking for the sake of walking, sometimes walking in circles in their own backyards, or walking around the block, or around their own living rooms. Walking is touted for producing a variety health benefits. Add meditation to your walking, and you may find your personal tranquility index rising, your blood pressure falling, and your overall life-equilibrium restored. Walking is a meditative habit that can easily become part of your routine. It is part of mine, and although I have practiced many different meditation techniques, a period of “walking mediation” each morning helps me face the predictable and unpredictable challenges of adult life. It is one of those “little things” that can make a big improvement in the quality of your life!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Napa Valley Spiced Almonds

Christmas dinner is on it's way to my house. I love hosting this very special dinner. In fact, my entire family looks forward to it. We enjoy having everyone over, and the fact that they all bring something for the meal makes it that much more fun.

Every year for dinner there are certain constants, but I am always on the look out for new and different recipes to change it up. One morning I made a phone call to my dear friend Meg and she was in the kitchen making spiced almonds (I was still in bed). Anyway, she had this appetizer while on vacation in Napa Valley and brought the recipe home. It sounded delicious, so I quickly jotted down the ingredients and now I'm sharing it with you.

It's good as a snack or great for when you have guests.

Napa Valley Spiced Almonds

2 C almonds
2 t olive oil
1/4 t cumin
1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t turmeric
1/2 t fine sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, combine the spices. Pour the olive oil over the almonds and toss to coat. Stir the spices into the almonds. Once the spices and almonds are combined and the almonds evenly coated spread them onto a sheet pan. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, checking often. Allow the almonds to cool before serving.