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.

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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

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For more information on how you can participate, click here
CDC Flu InformationKnow what to do about the flu