Thursday, December 16, 2010

Looking forward to 2011

For years, my kids have been the focus of my life. Even while I worked full time, I made being with my kids a priority, bringing work home and staying up late so I could attend a winter concert or a soccer game.

And about that soccer - while all of my kids played, my middle daughter played at the most competitive level. This meant weekends traveling to soccer games all around the area, plus out of town tournaments that consumed family vacations. She also had practice several days a week, meaning late or disrupted dinners. Though I coach recreational soccer, travel soccer took over all our lives.

As you can see in the accompanying photo, plenty of parents show up for soccer games. In fact, when I didn't show up, people would question me.

Now my kids are getting older; the oldest is a sophomore in college, and next fall, the middle daughter will start college and the youngest will go to high school. Though my kids still mean the world to me, I think that next year, my husband and I will have more free time to pursue our passions.

I have often crammed exercise into times that are convenient for my kids, going to the gym early in the morning or late at night. I truly hate exercising at these times, but I don’t have any other time. If I am not spending my weekends driving three hours to a soccer game, I can take long bicycle rides, and maybe even train for the marathon. I don’t know if I can actually run a marathon, but training may be enough.

2011 will also be the time when we go through our house, getting rid of long outgrown toys like a play kitchen that as been abandoned for years. The books that the girls no longer need can be donated to a local literacy program, but I want to keep the special children’s books that I read to my daughters before putting them to bed.

There is one small wrinkle in the plan. My soccer-playing daughter has friends in college and the parents would actually drive to college to see the soccer games! They went to games that were six or seven hours away. My daughter does plan to play soccer in college, but I have to put the kibosh on this weekend spent watching someone else have fun. I think we deserve a break.

I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network blogging program, for a $50 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.
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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Vegetarian Toothpaste

It may come as a shock to most people, but toothpaste typically contains detergent. It also often contains a host of other unhealthy things, like synthetic colors and flavors. But Dr. Sharp’s line of natural toothpaste has organic botanicals, no fluoride and is vegan to boot. As someone who avoids the gelatin in marshmallows and chewy candy (it’s meat!) I can truly appreciate a vegan toothpaste.

Of course, you are not supposed to eat your toothpaste, but it does go in your mouth, and fluoride toothpastes contain warnings about kids under age six using. The Dr. Sharp toothpaste is safe for kids to swallow, and the strawberry cream kids line offers a nice child-friendly flavor. If your kid has a more sophisticated palate, she can try the mint, or even the green tea flavors.

Dr. Sharps’ paraben-free paste contains no sodium lauryl sulfate or alcohol. The eco-friendly toothpaste packaging is printed with soy ink

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Holiday tech shopping tips

Hanukkah is here and Christmas is right around the corner. If you check the list of almost any teen or tween, you will find tech toys listed. But before you shell out money, consider a few things:

1. Find out if the household is Mac, PC, or both. There is nothing more disappointing than unwrapping a gift that your computer system doesn’t support.

2. If you are buying for a niece, nephew, grandchild or friend, check with the parents before buying a tech gift. Maybe they don’t want their child to have a laptop, or a KindleKindle. And if you want to buy an iPhone, for a kid, make sure the family has AT&T.

3. Check the return policy before buying any tech items. Some store or websites might charge a restocking fee, or refuse to accept returns of any tech items. Others require a gift receipt, which you can include in the card. And if you are sending a gift from a store, not a website, make sure that the recipient can return it if need be to a store where he lives.

4. Many people think their kid is advanced, and can handle a game or toy designed for a much older child. But age recommendations should be carefully considered. A young child may not be able to manipulate small buttons, or understand the complexities of a video game designed for an older child.

5. When buying video games, pay attention to the ratings. If your nephew requested a violent video game, check with his parents before buying it.

6. If you are buying a tech toy at a store, try it out before buying to see if you like it. Try to put yourself in your grand daughter’s shoes – is this appropriate and fun for her? If you are buying online, read reviews from a neutral site like Dr. Toy.
Finally, see if you can find a non-tech accompaniment to the tech toy, to further the fun. If you are buying a drawing game for a computer, include a sketch pad and craypas. If you are buying a Wii football game, give a real football as well.

I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Staples blogging program, making me eligible for a $50 gift card. For more information on how you can participate click here.
Staples Holiday GuideHoliday Tech Gifts

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Got Curls - Giveaway

If you have curly hair, you understand the concept of a destination haircut. Recetly on twitter, a travel editor wondered about that – she was at Devachan, in Soho, when she met a woman from the Midwest. I am a Devachan devotee myself, and have also been to Ouidad, in midtown (there’s a branch in Santa Monica as well), another curls Mecca.
But if you don’t want to travel for a cut, you can buy Devachan or Ouidad hair products. Another new product specializing in curls, Curly Q, specifically targets kids ages 2-12.

And I am giving away a Curly Q Princess Glaze Sample Kit.
You get
Curlie Cutie Cleansing Cream
Coconut Dream Conditioner
Moist Curls Moisturizer
Curly Q Princess Glaze
The organic products moisturize and enhance curls, leaving them bouncy and frizz-free.

To enter, follow my blog, and leave a comment about your curly headed kid.

Get another entry by following me on twitter, @judy511 and RT the following:

Got curls? Follow Veggie Mom and tell her why your kid needs Curly Q for a chance to win a Princess Glaze kit.

Winner will be contacted by Dec 20

Monday, November 22, 2010

No Turkey for Me

I used to cook a mean turkey. Haven’t eaten it since I was a kid, but I took over the Thanksgiving turkey when I read that you could improve the bird by rubbing spices on the skin and sticking butter and herbs under the skin. I didn’t want my family to endure a dry, tasteless bird.

I even used to make turkey stock afterwards and distribute it to the meat eaters in the family.

But I stopped cooking meat when I was pregnant with my first child, and I don’t get involved in the basting, stuffing, carving, or eating.

Until a near crisis this year. We are having our youngest daughter’s bat mitzvah 2 days after Thanksgiving, so my sister-in-law, our usual host, invited my husband’s family as well.

Then her father got sick and we became plan B – 45 guests, most of them expecting turkey, on Thanksgiving. I considered insisting on a raw, vegan meal, but I really have no interest in that.

But my sister-in-law decided to host after all. My oven gets to stay poultry free for another year.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Holiday Diets

Fall is an eating fest, from raiding your kids’ Halloween stash to holiday parties. I’m almost happy to be a guest at a Christmas dinner where roast goose or ham is the main attraction; I can not eat and give my stomach a rest.

But, even if no one thought about the vegetarian at the table, there are Christmas cookies, spiked and rich eggnog and platters of cheese, all tempting and all guaranteed to put inches on your waist.

So I was thrilled to try out Shapercise, a combination exerciser and Spanxlike shaper. The body contour-er not only makes your stomach look flatter, if actually burns calories as you wear it.

Shapercise has a high waist body shaper, great under tight dresses, and a regular waist shaper. The ‘regular’ waist is about a foot higher than where my teens wear their jeans, but then, Shapercise is not for teens; it is for the moms who had those teens and still don’t have the washboard abs of their youth.

It is made with breathable cotton and Lycra, so you won’t get hot while you wear it.

The shapewear, which you wear without underwear, is smooth and non-restricting, though it does take longer to tug on than underwear. It doesn’t replace a visit to the gym, but Shapercise does offer a light resistance workout while you go about your every day activities.

Though if those activities include frequent trips to the cookie jar, you may want to rethink your exercise plan.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Dining in NoHo

There are so many good restaurants in my NYC neighborhood that I often forget about places just a couple of miles, but a bridge or 10 subway stops away. Five Points has been in NoHo for 11 years, but I hadn’t been back recently.

The restaurant is perfect for carnivores and vegetarians. A wood-fired oven cooks meat and pizzas and the emphasis on local, seasonal vegetables means everyone can eat well.

Salads are a highlight. We tried two: Treviso (radicchio) and escarole, with a lemon0anchovy dressing and shavings of pecorino cheese. It was billed as coming with a soft cooked egg, and I imagined a runny yolk melting over the greens, but the egg was hard boiled. No matter, it was still tasty, and there was no risk of salmonella.

The other salad, chanterelle mushrooms with squash, polenta and mascarpone was finished in that oven and came bubbling to the table. It could easily be an entrée with a salad.

But then you would miss the pasta. Whole wheat cavatelli comes with roasted Brussels sprouts, squash, and pistachios and spaghetti is garlicky and larded with clams.

The only disappointment was the pizza with potatoes, fontina cheese and white truffle oil. Sometimes I order a dish that is supposed to come with bacon or speck and it is missing a flavor. This dish came as is, but needed another flavor – sundried tomatoes? Olives? Something to balance the richness of the cheese.

Five Points has a couple of seafood dishes and steak, all cooked in the wood oven.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Thanksgiving appetizer

Thanksgiving can be a tough time for vegetarians – some people are so focused on the turkey that they don’t give enough thought to the side dishes.

But if you are a guest at a Thanksgiving dinner with lots of good side dishes, you can usually make a meal of sides, as long as the stuffing isn’t cooked inside the turkey, the Brussels sprouts don’t have bacon and the re is soup and salad.
If you are hosting the meal, though, and you don’t want to serve turkey, you may get complaints. I used to make a turkey for my family, but it started grossing me out, so we did without the turkey for a few years. When my sister-in-law started hosting the meal, she made turkey, and I contribute chestnut or squash soup, chocolate pecan pie and regular pecan pie, and maybe an appetizer.

I have this habit of always making a complicated new dish and springing it on guests. But Bobby Flay, chef and owner of Mesa Grill and Bar Americain, recommends sticking with staples, making the same dish a couple of times to make entertaining easier.

But because we have my daughter’s bat mitzvah Thanksgiving weekend, 35 out of town guests, high school applications due for the same daughter and college apps due for another, I decided to try out Bobby’s easy balsamic-glazed stuffed mushrooms. They are easy to whip up, don’t require any hard to find ingredients and they taste great.

A Bobby Flay Recipe

6 servings

Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 25 minutes

20 cremini mushrooms, stems removed and finely chopped
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
2 medium shallots or 1 small onion, finely chopped
Pinch crushed hot pepper flakes
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1/2 cup Hellmann's® or Best Foods Real Mayonnaise, divided
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar, divided
4 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 cup plain dry bread crumbs, toasted

Preheat oven 400°.

Toss mushroom caps with 1 tablespoon oil in large bowl. Season, if desired, with salt and pepper. Arrange mushroom caps in 13 x 9-inch baking dish, stem-side-down. Bake 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove mushrooms; drain liquid. Return mushrooms to baking dish, stem-side-up.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat and cook shallots, stirring occasionally, 1 minute. Stir in mushroom stems and cook, stirring occasionally, 8 minutes or until tender. Stir in hot pepper flakes, parsley and thyme. Season, if desired, with salt and pepper. Turn into medium bowl. Stir in 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon vinegar, 2 tablespoons cheese and bread crumbs. Evenly spoon mixture into mushrooms.
Combine remaining 1/4 cup mayonnaise with remaining 1 tablespoon vinegar in small bowl. Season, if desired, with salt and pepper. Drizzle over mushrooms, then sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons cheese. Bake 15 minutes or until mushrooms are golden and heated through.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Unhappy Meals

Last year, parents in Park Slope were outraged when a new ‘family friendly’ restaurant opened without including a children’s menu.

Dr. Rallie McAllister would be pleased. Dr. McAllister, author of Healthy Lunchbox and The Mommy MD Guide, urges parents to avoid kids’ meals, though when you are traveling, it isn’t always so easy. The fried foods, sugar and salt make these terrible choices.

My own bugaboo is when the kid’s meal vegetarian option is spaghetti, served with French fries. If we don’t eat offer a few fresh veggies – broccoli and dip, carrots, grape tomatoes – how will we get kids to choose healthy food on their own?

San Francisco, though makes it easy to eat healthy. Even at the interactive Exploratorium science museum, you can get a sandwich filled with local, sustainable produce. Compare this to the Boston Children’s Museum, which has a McDonald’s on-site. Or to hospitals around the country that have McDonald’s in the building.

San Francisco also recently banned promotional toy giveaways with children’s meals filled with too many calories and too much salt and saturated fat.
Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity just released a study that says “the average kids’ meal contains 616 calories, which may meet the needs of older, more active children, but provides too many calories for most younger children. If your child is 2-5 years old, she required 410 calories at lunch or dinner, or a third less.

And if you examine the study carefully, you see that the lower calorie counts come when you choose low fat plain milk for your child. If you let him get a soda or chocolate milk, or add cheese to a burger, the calorie count is much higher.

Dr. McAllister suggests parents let their kids eat some of their own meal, noting that restaurant portions are often so large that adults don’t need to finish them. In fact, last night, I had an excellent barley and wild mushroom risotto at Alchemy and brought more than half of it home. My daughter, after two hours of soccer, ate the remainder. We were both stuffed.

And not a bit of fried food passed our lips.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Hotel Dining

When I was a kid, the only reason we ate at a hotel was we were staying at Howard Johnson and kids ate free. Now, hotel restaurants are destinations in and of themselves, and on a recent trip to Boston, we ate at Henrietta's Table in The Charles Hotel, but we weren’t even staying there.

The market focused restaurant, which has a large outdoor patio in warm weather, relies on local farms to supply it with produce. So the huge salads are an excellent way to start a meal. Try the simple ‘native’ greens with a lemon vinaigrette or the spinach salad, with blueberries, goat cheese and spicy maple pecan vinaigrette. The latter is a bit sweet with the berries and maple, so I tried it with the lemon- much better. There is also smoked salmon over greens, with a potato wafer and a retro iceberg lettuce (but an heirloom variety) with blue cheese dressing.

I am always happy when a menu offers more than a token vegetarian pasta and no other veggie choice. Here, there is no pasta on the menu, but you can have an entree of roasted carrot, squash, celery root and spinach with quinoa, white beans and farro. This changes seasonally, but when I had it, it was a festival of flavors, each offering a delicious morsel.

You can also create your own vegetable plate from sides: we tried the roasted beets, wilted greens, butternut squash puree and Brussels Sprout. Or get the appetizer of grilled Portobello, with blue cheese but without the bacon vinaigrette, and add some other sides: roasted root vegetables, roasted or mashed potatoes.

Seasonal drinks also offer vegetarians a place at the table; instead of trendy bacon infused drinks, find a Dilly Bean Martini with beans, or the Pepperoncini Martini with pickled peppers. Don’t try to say that five times after a drink or two.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Eating with Carnivores

Going out to dinner with another couple involves negotiations; what time should we eat, where, when? But the hardest thing for vegetarians is finding a place we want to eat that the carnivores will also like.

Thistle Hill Tavern fits the bill. The new American restaurant, in the south Slope, is committed to local and sustainable produce, dairy, seafood and meat. Locavores and foodies can find plenty to eat and drink here.

And the seasonal produce is so appealing that out meat-loving friends chose vegetarian entrees so we could all share. One salad, a fall green market salad, had speck, which we ordered on the side so we could all taste the roasted yellow beets, honey crisp apples, frisee, pumpkin seeds and pecorino. Even better, the grilled trumpet mushroom salad had 
watercress, shallots, piave vecchio and just the right amount of truffle vinaigrette.

Start with home made pickled vegetables, spicy or not, and curried pumpkin fritters, which could have used more tahini sauce. The grilled beans and charred kale give you more than your quotient of daily veggies.

The menu changes frequently, but the burger and vegan burger come with addictive salt & pepper French fries. Make sure someone in your group orders one so you can poach some fries.

Fall vegetarian entrees include a squash gratin with kale and goat cheese, and a rich pappardelle with roasted pumpkin, mushrooms and radicchio. If you eat seafood, go for the grilled octopus, served now with black lentils, olives and roasted parsnips. There are also curried mussels and Arctic Char with cauliflower.

The menu also includes an inventive cocktail list, local beers like Kelso of Brooklyn and Sixpoint on tap, and Brooklyn Oenology, Social Club Red wine, made in Queens with Long Island grapes.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Better Lunch

One of the challenges parents face during the school year is sending kids to school with a healthy lunch. My family faces an additional challenge because vegetarian lunches are more limited. But this weekend, families can learn how to “Build a Better Lunchbox” the Loews Regency Hotel in New York City.

The event, which repeats at other Loews hotels throughout the US, includes chef demonstrations and hands-on food stations. Kids get an organic cotton lunch Loews bag with a coupon for a berry smoothie and a $20 donation card for
They also get recipes for healthy lunches. The wrap, which can be altered for vegetarians by omitting the turkey, has protein and veggies.

Tickets are $25 for advance, $30 at the door (for one child, accompanying adults are free)
RSVP at 212-339-4013 or

Whole Wheat Turkey-Hummus Wrap
1 large whole wheat tortilla
¼ Cup Hummus
¼ Cup crumbled Feta cheese
½ heart of Romaine lettuce
1 4 ounce package of sliced turkey
1. Cut half inch strips of lettuce using all lettuce.
2. Warm tortilla slightly to make easy to roll.
3. Spread hummus over half of the tortilla.
4. Sprinkle feta on top of hummus.
5. Distribute cut lettuce evenly over hummus and feta.
6. Place sliced turkey over lettuce.
7. Roll the tortilla from the edge closest to you half way through, then fold up both ends and roll the rest of the way.


1 16 oz can of chickpeas or garbanzo beans
1/4 cup liquid from can of chickpeas
3-5 T lemon juice
1 1/2 T tahini
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 t of cayenne pepper
1/2 t salt
2 T olive oil
1 t chopped parsley
Drain chickpeas saving the liquid from the can aside.
Combine remaining ingredients in blender or food processor. Add 1/4 cup of liquid from chickpeas. Blend for 3-5 minutes on low until smooth.
Place in a serving bowl; create a shallow well in the center of the hummus.
Add a small amount (1-2 T) of olive oil in the well.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

10 Tips: Fun with Vegetables

I may have been a picky eater when I was a child, but I also ate most vegetables. It was never a problem to get me to eat a salad – I just liked it plain, with no dressing. It was all part of my no condiment stance. But it angered my mother, who insisted I use dressing (why? It’s not the healthy part).

Anyway, at some point I discovered blue cheese dressing and started dumping it on my greens.

With my kids, it was a different story. It was a challenge to get them interested in vegetables, possibly because they had few other choices. Perhaps if I’d plied them with meat, they would have rejected it, as I did, for the veggies. So I had to be creative, and think of ways to sneak veggies into food and involve the kids in the process.

1. Farmer’s markets: from the time the kids were little, we took weekly trips to the farmer’s market and let the kids choose what to buy. When you are faced with a bounty of fruits and vegetables, healthy food is bound to be chosen.

2. Read cookbooks together. And not just ones for kids. I have a huge cookbook collection, and I look through them with my daughters, or let them read them alone, and mark them up with post-its.

3. Cook together. This can be frustrating for kitchen control freaks, but when the result is ownership of the meal, kids are more willing to try exotic foods.

4. Taste tests. Since my kids actually like dressing, I let them experiment with different kinds. We would put out bowls of three kinds of ranch dressing, for example, and let them sample each – by dipping in string beans or baby carrots, of course.

5. Shop at ethnic markets. In NYC, we are blessed with Chinese and Japanese supermarkets, Middle Eastern stores, kosher stores, cheese shops galore. We once visited a Polish store in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and came home with dozens of unknown items.

6. Cut food into fun shapes. Make a radish flower, a heart shaped sandwich, pinwheel wraps, all of which can entice kids to try different foods.

7. Color your food. Let your child add a drop of food color to milk to turn it her favorite color, or make green eggs with food color and spinach.

8. Have a picnic. Food can taste better when eaten on the ground, whether in the backyard or on a blanket on the floor of the dining room.

9. Use different utensils to try different food. Our kids were a lot more receptive to Asian soups when I bought the large ceramic soup spoons that the Chinese restaurants use. And they tried Japanese noodles dishes loaded with vegetables and veggie dumplings when I got them special kid-sized chopsticks.

10. Have breakfast for dinner. But make your pancakes with butternut squash puree or mashed sweet potatoes and serve fried bananas on the side.

Try to keep the mood light and have fun.

I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and The Hub blogging program, making me eligible to get a $50 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

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Friday, October 8, 2010

Vegetarian Tackles the Flu

As a Jewish mother, I know the curative powers of chicken soup, but as a vegetarian, I am unwilling to serve my kids fowl. So I take other measures during cold & flu season.

The first is the annual flu shot, recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for kids ages six months and up.

If on of my kids has a sore throat or cold, I have her gargle with salt water, which actually does ease symptoms.

Then there’s using a Neti pot to rinse out your sinuses. I always thought this was rather disgusting, but Water Pik has a new line of SinuSense products to make using a saltwater solution to rinse your sinuses simple. A squeeze bottle and a Neti bottle are both a bit easier to use than a traditional Neti pot, or you can go with the battery operated water pulsator.

Finally, I make spicy vegetarian soup, usually with lots of ginger and chili paste, at the first sign of sniffles. This blasts through your nasal passages and clears you out in no time.

Try this soup, from This Can’t be Tofu! by Deborah Madison

Coconut Red Curry Soup with Butternut Squash and Lime
1 small butternut squash

4 tsp peanut oil

1 cup minced onions

2 garlic cloves, minced

4 slices fresh ginger

Grated zest and juice of 1 large lime

¼ tsp turmeric

1 to 2 tsp Thai red chili paste

4 cups vegetable stock

Sea salt
¼ cup cilantro leaves

2 tbsp basil leaves, thinly sliced

1 can light coconut milk

1 10 oz carton soft tofu
1. Peel the squash with a vegetable peeler, halve and scoop out the seeds, then dice into ½ cubes.

2. Warm the oil in a wide soup pot. Add the onion, squash, garlic, galangal, lime zest and turmeric. Cook over medium high heat, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, then add the chili paste.

3. Add ½ cup water and scrape pot to dilute the paste, then add stock and ½ tsp salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, dice the tofu into small cubes and prepare the cilantro and basil.

4. Add the coconut milk to the soup, followed by the tofu. Simmer until the soup is hot again and the tofu is warmed through, about 5 minutes. Taste for salt, adding more if necessary. Add the cilantro and basil, and squeeze in the juice from the lime.
Serves 4-6

I wrote this blog post while participating in a TwitterMoms blogging program for which I may receive a small thank you (valued at less than $20).
For more information on how you can participate, click here
CDC Flu InformationKnow what to do about the flu

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Veggie Hummus

Baby food is designed for babies, of course, but the purees can be great additions to soups and stews. I sneak a jar of squash puree into pnacake batter and give my kids an extra dose of vitamin A for brunch.

Actually, Gerber’s new line of organic, “Smart Nourish” baby food, with DHA and choline to support brain & eye development, is sold in little plastic containers, lighter for toting home, but no more handy little jars for spices. But the lighter material also reduces the carbon footprint, so even better.

The farmer’s market vegetable blend, with carrots and tomoatoes, adds undetectable Vitamins A and E to hummus. Just throw a package into any hummus recipe.

Veggie Hummus

2 cans (15 oz. each) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
One 2 pack of Gerber SmartNourish Farmer’s Market Blend with Mixed Grains
1/2 cup tahini
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Fresh chopped parsley

Blend or puree all ingredients except parsley in blender or food processor. Add a little water if too dry.

Garnish with parsley.

Serve with raw vegetables and get your kids to eat even more veggies. Try carrot sticks, string beans, red pepper strips, cucumber spears and broccoli florets.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Chestnut soup

Nothing says fall like rich chestnut soup. This soup is great for the holidays, but can be served any time during the fall. The chestnuts make it a bit heartier than vegetable based vegetarian soups, so follow with a light main course.

One can roasted chestnuts (Season has a new product, Roasted and Peeled Whole Chestnuts
2 C vegetable broth
2 T butter
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, cleaned and chunked
2 ribs of celery, chunked
1 C whole milk
salt & pepper, to taste
aute onion in butter till soft, then add broth, carrots, chestnuts and celery. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer, 40 minutes, or until carrots are soft.

With an immersion blender, puree the soup. Or wait till cool, then blend or puree in food processor.
Just before eating, whisk in milk, then heat.

I use homemade broth, but you can also use Manischewitz All-Natural Vegetable Broth.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Best NY Pizza

If you are a vegetarian, you can’t go wrong at a pizza place. Amorina, a casual pizza restaurant in Prospect Heights, has what may be Brooklyn’s best pizza. The thin crust roman-style pizza is topped by organic ingredients and local fresh mozzarella.

My favorite pizza is a twist on the menu’s Prosciutto & Fichi – we just order it without the ham. The figs and thyme make a delicious topping.

We had a rather comical situation recently when we ate there with 2 other couples. We had asked for the prosciutto on the side so our friends could enjoy the pizza with its full complement of toppings, but it came on top. Just after the pizza, dripping with ham, was set down, our rabbi stopped by to chat. We felt like frauds, avowed vegetarians sitting in front of a ham pie, but he seemed unfazed.

Anyway, they brought us a second pie, free of charge (and prosciutto).

Another great veggie option, the Tricolore, is topped with cherry tomatoes and arugula, like a salad on a pizza. The Gorgonzola & Frutta, with bleu cheese, figs, pears and honey, is a bit sweet for my taste, but quite nice without the unnecessary honey.

A chickpea and arugula salad, or beet, goat cheese or endive salad are perfectly composed.

Non-pizza options include eggplant parm and rigatoni with wild mushrooms.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bobby Flay Makes a Mayo Convert

As a kid, I hated tuna, egg and pasta salad and it wasn’t until I was older that I realized what I really hated was mayonnaise. I started eating tuna in college, when the vegetarian line had dishes like rice and mushrooms for the main course. I also hated mushrooms. (though I now love them) and rice really wasn't much of a dinner. I figured the tuna was good for protein, and I mixed it with plain yogurt and mustard.

Fast forward 30 years. My kids eat tuna ‘my way,’ though they prefer it with mayo, and they also like egg salad. I still don’t like hard boiled eggs, but since egg salad is a good way to cram some protein in a vegetarian, I decided to make some.

Turns out, just about every egg salad recipe contains mayonnaise. I had to buy my first ever jar. Coincidentally, I got invited to a cooking demo with Bobby Flay, where he made three dishes featuring Hellman’s mayonnaise.

First, he made chicken gyros, then he made egg salad –with turkey bacon. Coulnd’t try either. Then he made mini fish tacos, with tuna stuffed into corn chips. Delicious, even with the mayo.

Maybe I didn’t really hate mayonnaise all these years?

At the Hellmann’s Page on Facebook you can create a virtual sandwich and share it with a friend; Hellman’s will make a donation to Share Our Strength for each sandwich made and shared.


A Bobby Flay Recipe

2 servings

Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 4 minutes

1/2 cup Hellmann's® or Best Foods® Real Mayonnaise

1/2 cup prepared salsa

1 Tbsp. lime juice

1 can (6 oz.) tuna, drained and flaked

1 large green onion, thinly sliced

12 large corn tortilla chips

3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese (about 3 oz.)

Combine Hellmann's® or Best Foods® Real Mayonnaise, salsa and lime juice in medium bowl; reserve 1/2 cup. Stir tuna and green onion into remaining mayonnaise mixture just until combined. Season, if desired, with salt and pepper.

Arrange chips on baking pan. Top with tuna mixture, then sprinkle with cheese. Broil 1 minute or until cheese is melted. Dollop with reserved mayonnaise mixture. Garnish, if desired, with additional green onions.

Or serve cold, without the cheese, in corn scoop chips.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Cupcake Contest

When cake mixes were first introduced in the 1940s, they failed because women (yes, women – men did not cook in the home then, or shop for groceries) wanted to feel more a part of the process. Betty Crocker, the cake mix innovator, removed ingredients like eggs and oil, which then needed to be added back in – and women could take ownership of their cakes again.

Now, bakers are taking cake mixes and adding even more interesting twists. I attended the Duncan Hines Red Carpet Cupcake Challenge, where 10 female finalists (yes, all the finalists were women – odd how things haven’t changed much) presented their cupcakes, all riffs on cake mixes.

The winning recipe, by Katie Rousonelos of Madison, WI, was Red Carpet Glamour. You may not look down on cakes using mixes again.

Cupcake Batter

1 pkg Duncan Hines® Red Velvet Cake Mix

1 1/4 cup water

1/3 cup vegetable oil

3 large eggs

3 tsp Raspberry flavoring

1/2 c Sour Cream

Chocolate Ganache Filling

4 oz bittersweet chocolate

1/2 c heavy cream

1 tbs confectioner sugar

Vanilla Bean Frosting

1 Container Duncan Hines Buttercream Frosting

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and insides scraped out

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 oz. Cream Cheese

1. Add the ingredients for filling in a medium microwave safe bowl. Heat until mixture is warm (20-30 seconds on high) Whisk until smooth, put in refrigerator to stand until just chilled, no longer than 30 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease muffin pans or line with paper baking cups.

3. Blend dry mix, water, oil and eggs in large bowl at low speed until moistened (about 30 seconds). Then add sour cream and raspberry flavoring. Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Spoon batter into muffin pan or paper cups.

4. Place one rounded teaspoon of filling on the top of each cupcake.

5. Bake cupcakes for 19-22 minutes. Add 3-5 minutes to bake time for dark or coated pans. Cupcakes are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

6. Cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.

7. To make the frosting, add the canned frosting, cream cheese, vanilla bean, and vanilla extract together. Beat until mixed, about 1 minute.

Refrigerate filling for 30 minutes. Frost and decorate cupcakes as desired.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Healthy Eating

I have a continual debate with my mother, mother-in-law, and friends, about whether or not my vegetarian diet offers enough protein. Best selling author Dr. Barry Sears, in his new book, Toxic Fat, advocates a mostly vegetable, fruit and legume diet that provides enough protein, and reduces what he calls Toxic fat, a natural fatty acid that causes inflammation and leads to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.

Take that, steak-wielding in-laws!

Dr. Sears’ anti-inflammatory diet balances the body’s hormones, specifically levels of insulin and GI tract hormones.

Even if you continue to eat meat, Dr. Sears suggests a way to cut down, dividing a plate into three equal sections and filling one third with a low-fat protein, 3 ounces for women or four ounces of men the rest of the plate should be filled with colorful non-starchy vegetables, with a little heart-healthy monounsaturated fat: e.g., olive oil, slivered almonds or guacamole.

A Zone Diet meal planner offers menus and recipes, like a Mediterranean pizza made with onions and green olives, and only 1 tablespoon of (fat free) feta cheese.

To follow the diet strictly, you have to buy Zone products like sliced bread ($17.50 a loaf) and multigrain pizza crusts ($25 for 5). They are expensive, but far cheaper than restaurant or take-out meals. And two slices of that bread have as much protein as a chicken breast.

The recipe below uses the Zone fusilli, which is $25 for 5 packages. The rest of the ingredients cost under a dollar total, so you have a whole, healthy meal, for less than $6.

For a few dollars more, you can even invite the in-laws.

Fusilli Fagiole


1 package of Zone Fusilli

1 ½ teaspoons olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

½ cup Italian plum tomatoes, drained and chopped

1 teaspoon fresh parsley, minced

1 pinch basil, dried
1 pinch oregano, dried

¼ cup cannelloni beans, rinsed

Salt and pepper

Grated Parmesan if desired

Fresh basil leaves for garnish


Cook the fusilli as directed on package.

Reserve 1 cup of liquid and drain the rest.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil and garlic in a medium saucepan.

Sauté on low heat to prevent burning.

Add the plum tomato and turn up heat to medium high.

Bring to a simmer.

Add dried herbs and beans.

Add ½ cup of reserved pasta liquid and stir. The starch in the liquid will help thicken the tomato mixture. Continue to simmer adding more liquid as necessary to thicken tomato sauce to desired consistency.

Pour over pasta. Sprinkle with fresh basil and parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Northampton Vegetarian

My husband and I don’t have ‘favorite’ restaurants or family vacation spots – we like to try new places, and although we do go back to certain neighborhood restaurants again and again, there are so many in our immediate area that we can’t become regulars anywhere.

But through years of driving to Vermont to ski or visit our youngest daughter at camp, we’ve made a habit of stopping in Northampton, Mass. We have a college friend who lives there, the town is really cute, and it’s right off the highway. And every time we go there, we eat at the vegetarian restaurant, Haymarket Café.

This time, we were determined to try another place. There are several vegetarian and vegetarian-friendly restaurants in Northampton, but one was packed, another didn’t look so great and we found ourselves, once again, in front of Haymarket.

At breakfast and dinner, waitress service downstairs means you can sit and wait for excellent coffee or the basket of warm sourdough bread, served with herbed olive oil. At lunch, you order at the open kitchen and bus your own table. Small price to pay for delicious food.

Filling entrees like a warm rice salad with tofu and veggies, plus a green salad with chickpeas, olives and roasted pepper, or cold soba noodles with a peanut sauce, and the same side salad, are a filling dinner, for only $5.95. You can also get two of three: soup, salad and half a sandwich, for $6.50.

Particularly good sandwiches include a tempeh burger with roasted red pepper, a Portobello sandwich with gorgonzola and tomato and our family favorite, hummus and avocado. We got the idea from Haymarket and make it all the time at home.

I am also partial to the Greek artichoke stew, with rice and cannelloni beans, and the arroz a la Cubana, with black beans, fried egg and plantain. I’ve yet to try the wild mushroom risotto, shephard’s pie or linguini in Romesco sauce with Swiss chard, so I figure we can stop here at least four more times before I repeat a dish.

We may never eat anywhere else in Northampton.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Keeping kids safe with vaccines

Two summers ago, my then 10 year old came home from camp with whooping cough. I got a call from the New Hampshire Board or Health and a reminder from my pediatrician that vaccines protect against diseases, but the vaccine can wear off. In fact, the Tdap vaccine, a booster against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (aka whooping cough) is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for 11 or 12 year olds, but my daughter was just precocious.

Last summer, before my oldest daughter went to college, the pediatrician recommended a vaccine against meningitis, a disease that often strikes college students who live in close quarters.

And then there was the swine flu. College students around the country were sickened, quarantined and given swine and ‘regular’ flu vaccines if their colleges were lucky enough to have the supplies. Hallie’s college ran out, but she came home for the Jewish holidays and our pediatrician saved a dose for her.

All three of my daughters got the HPV vaccine, which protects girls from human papillomavirus, which can cause cervical cancer.

Our health insurance covered the cost of the vaccines. If you don’t have health insurance, your kids who are 18 and younger may be eligible to get the vaccines for free through the Vaccines for Children program (VFC). Visit the CDC Pre-teen Immunization Hub for a text-based versionVisit the CDC site for more information on pre-teen vaccines

I am writing this post as part of a CDC blogger outreach program. I may receive a small thank you gift from the CDC for my participation in raising awareness about pre-teen immunizations.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Late summer and back to school

In New York, summer doesn’t really get going until July 4th. Public school goes until late June, and city beaches and pools don’t officially open till July 1. So it was shocking to me that I could buy figs today.

And yesterday, Staples launched its back to school specials. On July 14th! My kids haven’t even been out of school for three weeks and it’s already back to school.

According to Fresh Direct, figs are a late summer fruit. So what are they doing here in mid July?

I could ponder this, but instead I bought the figs. They are perfect in a vegetarian fig/bleu cheese sandwich. This amazing sandwich should be made at least 2 hours before you want to eat it, so exercise restraint. If the mouth watering sandwich is too much to resist, leave the cheese out till it reaches room temperature. It is also easier to spread this way.

If you are not a fan of bleu cheese, you can make this with goat cheese. Delicious, but not quite as good.


Bleu cheese

Fresh figs



Olive oil


Slice the baguette in half lengthwise and spread cheese on. Slice figs (no need to peel) and layer on top. Sprinkle on some chopped basil, squeeze on a little fresh lemon, drizzle some oil and grind a little salt

Press the top half of the bread on top.

And wait.

Catch up on TiVo, read a book, go for a run. Then enjoy.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Cool off with cold soup

Many years ago, I had a strange hankering for borscht. Strange, because I didn’t really like beets. But I decided to try it and it was delicious. And extremely refreshing in the heat. I am referring, of course, to cold vegetarian borscht, not the hot version with chunks of meat.

When I found a recipe, it called for sour salt, and I couldn’t find any. By then, my grandmother was no longer alive, but my husband still had one grandmother. Our heritage is Russian Jewish, so I figured she’d know about borscht and sour salt.

She did. Not only that, she had three or four unopened jars of the stuff (which is also referred to as citric acid– now that I know that, I can find it in New York). It struck me as rather optimistic that a 92 year old bought in such quantities; at the rate I make borscht, I would exhaust such a supply in 8 or 9 years.

The sour salt gives borscht that tang, almost like the Japanese umami. In fact, when I was pregnant with my third child, my cravings were limited to borscht and miso soup, which gets its umami from the miso paste. And, oddly, my youngest daughter loves both soups, proof perhaps that what you eat when you are pregnant influences your kids.

This soup is refreshing, even when the mercury hits 103º.

Beet borscht

4 medium beets, peeled and quartered

1/2 pickle, finely chopped

1/2 cucumber, finely chopped

1 cup buttermilk

1 tsp sour salt.

Cover the beets with water and cook for 20-25 minutes. Grate the beets – if you do this by hand, your hands will be stained red. I use a Cuisinart. You can also use golden beets, though the flavor is not as intense.

Put the grated beets in a bowl with the cooking water, buttermilk, cuke, pickle and sour salt.

If you like beet greens, you can add them about 5 minutes before the beets are done, then chop and add back in.

Chill till very cold

You can serve with cold boiled potatoes and sour cream or Greek yogurt.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Baby spinach, no ham

As a vegetarian foodie, I follow hot restaurants and chefs, looking for high quality, innovative vegetarian food. I am dismayed by celebrity chef David Chang, who deliberately does not cater to vegetarians. In a review of one of his restaurants, Momofuku Noodle Bar, the writer said, “his advice to vegetarians and snooty diners is to go eat someplace else.” Noted.

That’s why eating was such a pleasure at Amelia’s Trattoria, in Cambridge, MA. Before we ordered, I asked about the polenta, served with braised wild mushrooms and crispy sage. I wanted to make sure it didn’t have any hidden veal or chicken stock, and the waiter assured me that some butter and cheese was used, but as long as I ate dairy, I was fine.

Then I ordered one of the four salads, the baby spinach with caramelized shallots and Vermont goat cheese. Everyone at the table was getting a different salad; there was also Caesar, arugula with pears and gorgonzola, and mixed baby field greens.

I had planned to request the omission of the pancetta on my salad, but I forgot. The waiter astutely brought the ham up, and asked if I wanted him to leave it off. This is how a vegetarian feels the love.

Vegetarian entrees include daily fish, slightly sweet homemade gnocchi with butternut squash, a few other pastas, and rich, utterly delicious wild mushroom risotto with peas and a hint of truffle.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Grocery - friend to vegetarians

When The Grocery first opened on Smith Street in Brooklyn, we were among the early adopters. We went several times before its astronomical Zagat rating, including one memorable anniversary dinner in the garden, where I was attacked by mosquitoes and owner Sharon Pachter helpfully surrounded me with Citronella candles.

But for whatever reason – excellent restaurants closer to home, the tanking economy, busy lives, we hadn’t returned in a couple of years.

This was a mistake.

The Grocery is even better than I remember, a pitch-perfect restaurant that even has a nightly “vegetables grains, greens and legumes” plate, a vegetarian’s delight. The entrée, also available in an appetizer portion, has 12-15 different ingredients, which show a particular care towards vegetarian diners.

The night we went, our party of four had to wait 15 minutes for our reservation. Not so terrible, but if The Grocery has one flaw, it is that it is a bit cramped. And extremely popular. On a cold night, there is nowhere to wait.

But the waiter took our cell phone number so we could go to the bar next door and he could call when they were ready.

The effusive apologies – plus 2 amuse bouches, both vegetarian, more than made up for our short wait. Potato balls and parsnip soup eased our hunger pangs.

We couldn’t decide between roasted beets with goat cheese ravioli, fried artichoke and escarole salad, and the farro cake with cauliflower and hen of the woods mushrooms (but without the bacon) so decided to get all three and share four ways. Our waiter also brought us a surprisingly delicious special, French fry salad, that he said we had ‘accidentally forgotten to order.’ It had mushrooms and lots of parsley, and the fries stayed crisp.

Other veggie apps include ‘teenage’ greens and smoked salmon with endive and potato pancake.

Vegetarian entrees include the aforementioned vegetable plate and a spinach & mushroom lasagna with celery root puree that tasted nothing like a traditional lasagna but was rich andflavorful. Seared scallops in a spinach and Meyer lemon puree is the only other vegetarian choice, though specials included an amazing sounding pasta and another fish.

Tuesdays – Thursdays, The Grocery offers a green plate special, a 4 course vegetarian tasting menu for $35. We will be back.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Eat your greens - and eat green

One of my reasons for becoming a vegetarian was to eat lower on the food chain. The Green Restaurant Association helps by certifying green restaurants, based on a point system. Del Posto is a 2 star certified restaurant, due to such practices as buying energy star appliances, using compact fluorescent bulbs and serving vegan and vegetarian food.

Italian restaurants are particularly well suited to vegetarians, and Del Posto is no exception. Appetizers include salads, roasted vegetables with truffled hazelnuts and lobster with broccoli rabe. Main courses range from pasta with beans and black cabbage or pumpkin pasta with almond and black truffles to a number of fish dishes. There are meat entrees, but vegetarians should have no problem choosing a meal.

If you are looking to get more protein, you can finish your meal with a cheese course. But if you want to mix sweet and savory, get more vegetables in your meal with the carrot torte with parsnip gelato. If you didn’t know you were eating root vegetables, you would just think this was a delicious dessert (there is also tartufo, for the less adventurous.

One important note for vegetarians – though the bread basket is delicious, the accompanying butter comes with a whitish mate on a tray. The non-butter substance turns out to be lard. Proceed with cauthion.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Kid appeal – renaming food

As an editor, I had a saying, ‘when in doubt, recast.’ In other words, if you couldn’t figure out how to fix a sentence, rewrite it.

Feeding kids can be an exercise in recasting, or renaming. This started years ago in my home, when my oldest daughter, Hallie, refused to eat Indian food. If you are a vegetarian and you don’t eat Indian food, you might as well say you don’t drink water. You just HAVE to eat vegetarian friendly Indian food.

Hallie was still pretty young, maybe around four, and certainly not reading when I realized I could just say that we were having Pakistani food for dinner and she’d be none the wiser. In fact, she loved it. What’s not to love? Dumplings (called pakora), tofu korma in a nut enhanced sauce, curried vegetables, rice. Indian (er, Pakistani) food has become a staple of her diet.

Another vegetarian dish my husband and I love is riboletta. This stew-y soup, loaded with vegetables, has a broth thickened with pureed white beans and sourdough bread. For whatever reason, my kids decided they hated it. They wouldn’t even try.

But I persevered. I renamed it bread soup and they spoon it up happily.

Now, if there only were a new name I could give to spinach salad..

Monday, April 26, 2010

Living off the land

Although I live in New York City, I have farmer fantasies (no, not X-rated ones). I love to grow my own vegetables and herbs, although I probably wind up spending $25 to get a full bunch of basil. I buy seeds, new soil, organic vegetable fertilizer, I compost my produce leavings, but I still cannot grow a decent tomato.

Part of this is a sunlight issue. In our old brownstone, our south facing garden was flooded with light and we grew, well, not bushels, but armfuls of vegetables. Our current home has a north garden and I’ve tried container tomato plants that I obsessively move to sunny spots, hybrid tomato plants, heirlooms – nothing seems to work.

This year, I have a new plan. I got one of those ‘magical’ upside down tomato planters that I can hang off our trellis, 6 feet off the ground and closer to the sun.

Allegedly, each plant should grow up to 30 pounds of tomatoes.

Planting did not go smoothly.

First, we mixed the dirt and water. Admittedly, fun. We were making mud pies! On the dining room table! But this soil was not like ordinary dirt –it was light and fluffy and I worried that it was loaded with chemicals.

Then it turned out our ‘complete kit’ came without seeds. But no worries –we had bought two, and the seed pack had extra seeds.

So we planted, and now we wait.

And wait.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Earth Day star

Rouge Tomate is an elegant restaurant on the Upper East Side that also walks the walk on sustainability. The restaurant’s philosophy is SPE, based on respect of ingredients and combining delicious food and nutrition. Rather than butter, Executive Chef Jeremy Bearman relies on pure flavors.

Rouge Tomate also supports local farms, fisheries, and producers who use sustainable practices.

Of course a restaurant with this commitment also has many options for those who shun meat. Inventive soups and salads, ricotta gnocchi, and tagliatelle with Oregon morels are great for those who won’t eat fish; there are also a number of fish dishes with no hidden veal stock or beef marrow.

On Sunday, April 25th, Bearman is cooking at the NYC Grows Festival at Union Square at 1pm. The family-friendly even, from 10am – 4pm, includes workshops on healthy living, gardening, tree planting and sustainable cooking.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Eat your veggies

The refrain ‘eat your vegetables’ is uttered worldwide, even if the moms are saying ‘coma sus verduras.’ Universally, it seems, kids have to be encouraged to eat vegetables.

In honor or Earth Day, Square 1682 in Philadelphia offers a six-course vegetable tasting menu. Since two of the courses are actually dessert, vege-phobes can rest assured that they would only need to eat four courses of vegetables. But this is the kind of food that will entice in the most inveterate meat eater.

Chef Guillermo Tellez is also offering organic wine pairings and an eco-cocktail, the “Green Squared,” with organic Square One vodka and cucumber. A drink that helps celebrate Earth Day? I can get down with that.

The vegetable tasting, only $40 is available April 22-24.

The menu:

Terrine of asparagus and petite carrots

Preserved mushrooms, carrot cardamom vinaigrette

Spring pea soup and bleeding heart radishes

Cashew butter, lime-mint granite

Petite vegetable medley

Celery root, red wine reduction, mustard vinaigrette

Roasted local mushroom tart

Brie cheese, pickled turnips, herb oil

Lemon curd napoleon

Almond cream

Valhrona dark chocolate pate

Coconut eggless custard