The Best Burger

In the late 1970s, The Onlooker newspaper, published by my boss, Mike Jacobs, and his wife, Suezette Bieri, solicited readers to nominate their choice for best cheeseburger in North Dakota.

As I recall, it was a popular feature of the newspaper, which reported mostly on environmental, political and agricultural issues in the state.

I got to thinking about the contest after coming across an e-mail from the folks at the Food Network magazine about its June/July issue (on the newsstands Tuesday), which lists the best burger in all 50 states.  

"With the help of food critics across the country, the magazine searched for the most exciting, interesting, wacky or otherwise fabulous burger in every state and chose the one burger you absolutely have to try. Some of them are life-changing, some are just good old-fashioned classics, but one thing is for sure — all are delicious," the e-mail said.

In North Dakota, the double cheeseburger at the Hi-Ho South in Fargo (3051 25th St. S.W.) was named North Dakota’s top burger by the magazine. The magazine picked The Vincent Burger from Vincent-A Restaurant in Minneapolis (1100 Nicollet Ave.) as Minnesota’s best burger.

While I don’t have the recipe for either of those burgers (restaurants rarely share recipes anyway), here is one with a touch of Southwestern spice that might prove interesting. Also find a simple slaw recipe to round out a quick all-American dinner.

Southwestern Burgers
3 tablespoons rinsed and drained canned red kidney beans
½ pound lean ground sirloin
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1½ teaspoons chili powder
1½ tablespoons low-sodium, low-fat pasta sauce
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Vegetable oil spray
2 whole-grain hamburger rolls
1 small tomato, sliced
Several lettuce leaves
Mash the kidney beans in a bowl. By hand or with a fork, mix in the ground sirloin, cumin, chili powder, pasta sauce add salt and pepper to taste. Form into 2 patties about 4 inches in diameter. Heat a nonstick skillet on medium-high and spray with vegetable oil. Add the hamburgers and cook 5 minutes per side or until a meat thermometer reads 160 degrees.
While hamburgers cook, spray the inside of the rolls with vegetable oil spray and place in a toaster oven or under a broiler for 1 to 2 minutes or until golden. Place hamburger on the roll and top with tomato slices and lettuce.
Yield: Serves 2.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 352 calories (23 percent from fat), 8.9 grams fat (4.3 grams saturated), 89 milligrams cholesterol, 36.7 grams protein, 5 grams carbohydrates, 0.1 grams fiber, 105 milligrams sodium.
Broccoli Slaw
1 tablespoon reduced-fat mayonnaise
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups precut broccoli slaw mix
1 cup frozen corn kernels
¼ cup mild salsa
Mix mayonnaise, vinegar and sugar in a medium bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add broccoli slaw mix, corn and salsa. Toss well. Add more salt and pepper if needed.
Yield: Serves 2.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 143 calories (19 percent from fat), 3 grams fat (0.5 grams saturated), 3 milligrams cholesterol, 5.9 grams protein, 28.2 grams carbohydrates, 3.9 grams fiber, 275 milligrams sodium.

Bake for the Cure

I’ve never entered any food at the county or state fair level, but those sort of contests always have held some fascination for me.

The only winning recipe I’ve tried is Jennie’s Blue Ribbon Dills. (We call turmeric dills.) The pickle recipe is the creation of the mother of one of my wife’s former co-workers, Cindy Healey, and won the blue ribbon for pickles at a state or county fair.

It would be fun to enter a fair competition, although I have my qualms about being a contestant while being the food editor at the Grand Forks Herald.

If I did enter such a competition, one that surely would get some consideration would be Fleischmann’s Yeast’s "Bake for a Cure" contest held at 52 state and county fairs. For each entry, ACH Food Companies Inc., on behalf of its Fleischmann’s Yeast brand, will donate $10 to Susan G. Komen for the Cure for all of the contests nationwide.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure, formerly known as The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, often is referred to as simply Komen. It is an organization that supports breast cancer research. Since its inception in 1982, Komen has raised more than $1 billion for research, education and health services, making it the largest breast cancer charity in the world.

Today, the Komen organization is recognized as the leading catalyst in the fight against breast cancer, with more than 100,000 volunteers working in a network of 125 U.S. and international affiliates.

Susan Goodman Komen was a woman from Peoria, Illinois, who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 33 and died three years later, in 1980. Komen’s younger sister, Nancy Goodman Brinker, feeling that Susan’s outcome might have been better if patients knew more about cancer and its treatment, and remembering a promise to her sister that she would find a way to speed up breast cancer research, founded the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation in Komen’s memory in 1982. In 2007, the 25th anniversary of the organization, it changed its name to Susan G. Komen for the Cure and adopted the explicit mission "to end breast cancer forever."

The Bake for the Cure competition offers two ways to win, welcoming entries in both traditional and batter bread styles. Make any flavor or shape of baked good using any type of Fleischmann’s Yeast; themes and decorative presentations encouraged.
Be a best bread winner. ACH offers $375 in local cash prizes and $3,000 in national prizes. The main category awards $150 for first place, $75 for second and $50 for third. In the second category, $100 is awarded for the “Best Batter Bread,” where you simply mix, rise and bake your entry. Qualifying bread recipes in the second category use just one rise time and zero effort spent kneading the dough.
All entries will be judged on flavor (40 percent), presentation (40 percent) and texture (20 percent). Each person can enter once per category, per fair. Contestants of all ages are welcome.
From the first-place winners of both categories at 52 fairs across the U.S., ACH Test Kitchens will pick one grand prize winning recipe from each of three regions: Northern, Central and Southern. These national winners will be selected and announced after the 2009 fair season (January 2010).

For contest details and complete official rules, contact a host fair’s entry office. In Minnesota it’s In North Dakota, it’s

To see what it takes to win, check out the recipe for Orange Nirvana, by Jayne Judd Adams of Kentucky, the Central Region Grand Prize Winner in 2008, of Fleischmann’s Yeast’s "Bake for a Cure" contest. Or my favorite, Jennie’s Blue Ribbon Dills.

Orange Nirvana
3 to 3½ cups all-purpose flour
1 envelope Fleischmann’s RapidRise Yeast
3 tablespoons sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1½ tablespoons butter or margarine
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange peel
1/3 cup orange marmalade
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
1 tablespoon butter or margarine, softened
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 ounce cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
1½ tablespoons orange juice
½ teaspoon freshly grated orange peel
Combine 2 cups flour, undissolved yeast, sugar and salt in large mixer bowl. Heat milk and butter to 120 to 130 degrees and add to flour mixture.
Add butter, egg and orange peel. Beat for 2 minutes. Stir in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough. Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Punch dough down.
Roll into 14-by-9-inch rectangle. Spread orange marmalade down the middle of the dough, lengthwise. Make diagonal cuts 1-inch apart and 3 inches long down the two sides. Fold alternate strips of dough over the filling. Place on a greased or parchment lined baking sheet. Brush with the 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Cover and let rise until double, about 30 minutes.
Combine topping ingredients to make crumbs. Sprinkle on top of the braid. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on wire rack.
Combine all icing ingredients and drizzle over coffeecake.
Yield: 1 coffeecake. 

Jennie’s Blue Ribbon Dills
20 to 30 medium-sized to small-cucumbers
1 cup apple cider vinegar (5 percent acidity)
2 cups water
2 tablespoons canning/pickling salt
4 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons sugar
Wash cucumbers and rinse well. Wash dill and soak in pickling salt water (this removes bugs) and shake well.
Put dill in bottom of quart jars with garlic clove. Pack jars with cucumbers. Add ¾ to 1 teaspoon mustard seed and ½ teaspoon turmeric powder. Top with garlic clove and dill.
Cover with boiling liquid (vinegar, water, salt and sugar solution), leaving ¼-inch head-space.
Put on preboiled lids and bands (make sure rims are clean) and tighten. Put jars in water bath. Process for 15 minutes.
Yield: 2 quarts.

Mac ‘n’ Cheese

As kids, just about everybody I know ate macaroni and cheese. Most of us just called it mac ‘n’ cheese.

I have fond childhood memories of that "blue box" from Kraft, as probably many others do. From it came one of those quick, classic comfort foods that Mom could whip up in a jiff — and not get any complaints about.

Back then, when many famililes were struggling to make ends meet, as they are today, it was nice go-to dish that didn’t break the bank.

And as we grew up, some of us didn’t lose our taste for mac ‘n’ cheese.

Ryan Bakken, an old friend, co-worker and former roommate, was one of those. I would hesitate to guess how many boxes of mac ‘n’ cheese he ate when we lived together and the years before he was married. It became such a habit for Ryan, that rumor has it that his wife, Chris, jokingly said something to the effect that if she never saw a box of macaroni and cheese, it would be too soon.

I got to thinking about mac ‘n’ cheese after reading about Kraft’s "Share a Little Comfort" campaign. Now, with the click of a mouse, anyone who visits can contribute a box of “The Cheesiest” to Feeding America, the largest domestic hunger relief organization. Every click means that one box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese will help feed the hungry — up to 1 million boxes. Kraft also will be donating $100,000 in cash to the organization.

In addition to the Web site, Kraft Foods is offering another way to share a little comfort. Every “Tweet” on that uses the Share a Little Comfort hash tag (#BlueBox) will count toward the up to 1 million boxes donation.

While Kraft macaroni is synthetically delicious, homemade macaroni and cheese is even better. Here are a couple of recipes that might be worth trying.

I wonder if Ryan can talk his wife into making one of them.

Upscale Macaroni and Cheese
2 tablespoons (¼ stick) butter, plus more to prepare baking dish
3 large red bell peppers (about 1 ½ pounds), cut into ½-inch pieces
5 ribs celery, chopped
Ground black pepper
1½ cups heavy cream
1½ cups half-and-half
1 pound blue cheese, crumbled
Ground red (cayenne) pepper
3 large egg yolks
½ cup chopped celery leaves
1 pound penne pasta
¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 ounces)
Butter a 4-quart oval baking dish. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Melt butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add bell peppers and celery; saute until just beginning to soften, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Combine cream, half-and-half and blue cheese in a heavy medium saucepan. Stir over low heat until cheese melts. Remove from heat. Season sauce with cayenne and salt and pepper to taste.
Beat yolks in a medium bowl until blended. Gradually whisk in half of the cheese sauce. Return mixture to the saucepan; whisk to blend. Stir in celery leaves. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta; cook until just tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally. Drain. Return pasta to its cooking pot. Add sauce and vegetables; stir to blend. Transfer to the baking dish. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Let come to room temperature before continuing.)
Sprinkle Parmesan over the pasta mixture. Bake until the pasta is heated through, the sauce is bubbling and the top is beginning to brown, about 25 minutes.
Yield: Serves 12.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 482 calories, 30 grams fat (18.5 grams saturated), 56 percent calories from fat, 140 milligrams cholesterol, 18 grams protein, 35 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams sugar, 2.5 grams fiber, 660 milligrams sodium, 346 milligrams calcium, 381 milligrams potassium.

Macaroni with Wisconsin  Asiago
1 package (1 pound) rotini or cavatelli pasta
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup flour
1½ cups milk
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons dry mustard
¼ teaspoon coarse salt
1/8 teaspoon each: ground red pepper, hot red pepper sauce
½ pound Wisconsin Asiago cheese, grated
6 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
4 ounces sharp white Cheddar cheese, shredded
½ cup chopped parsley
1/3 cup minced fresh chives
1 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs) or fresh bread crumbs, toasted
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook pasta until al dente, 10-12 minutes. Drain; cool. Place in a large bowl.
Melt 5 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add flour; cook, stirring, 3 minutes. Whisk in milk; raise heat to high. Heat to a boil; reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 6 minutes. Add Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt, red pepper and hot pepper sauce.
Pour sauce over pasta; mix. Add Asiago, 1 cup of the Parmesan cheese, Cheddar, parsley and chives; toss to mix. Pour into a buttered 2½-quart baking dish. Mix bread crumbs with remaining Parmesan cheese in small bowl. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in small saucepan; pour over bread crumbs. Toss to mix; sprinkle over pasta. Bake until crumbs are lightly browned and sauce is bubbling, 40 to 50 minutes.
Yield: Serves 8.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 635 calories, 46 percent calories from fat, 32 grams fat (20 grams saturated), 90 milligrams cholesterol, 795 milligrams sodium, 55 grams carbohydrates, 31 grams protein, 2.3 grams fiber.

Going Fishin’: Part II

I just love it when a recipe exceeds my expectations. The tuna club that I blogged about Monday did just that.

I only varied from the recipe slightly, using a Foreman Grill instead of a frying pan, making the sandwich with only two slices of bread instead of three and adding just a bit more pesto to the basil mayonnaise than called for in the recipe. To say that the club surpassed my expectations would be an understatement.

And I’m sure that the sourdough from Dakota Harvest Bakers had something to do with, too.

Here’s hoping that another recipe for fish that I came across recently does the same.

The Brazilian-Style Baked Fish recipe is from the American Institute for Cancer Research, which hosts one of my favorite places to find good food recipes on the Web. The AICR people bill the recipe as a fresh way to spice up an old standby.

Of course, fish has a large role in any healthy diet, and seeking out bold new ways to prepare it is a great way to keep this simple, versatile food interesting.

The fish used in the recipe is halibut, which is readily available in many supermarkets. It also contains shrimp. Both are among my favorites. It also features a couple of herbs (parsley and cilantro) as well as onions, green bell peppers and San Marzano tomatoes, thinner and pointier than the more familiar Roma variety. They are a nice complement to the onions and bell peppers. This variety of plum tomato is considered by many chefs to be the best sauce tomato in the world.

Nutritionally, the recipe is loaded with vitamins A, C, B6, B1 and folic acid as well as antioxidants that have been linked in laboratory studies to a range of anti-cancer activities.

The recipe also has a small amount of chile paste.

Could this be another catch worth keeping? Stay tuned.

Brazilian-Style Baked Fish
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
¼ cup green bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon chile paste (more or less can be used, depending on how spicy you want it)
1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes
3 tablespoons parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1½ pounds halibut or cod fillets, about ½ inches thick
½ pound medium-size raw shrimp, shelled and deveined
3 tablespoons lime juice Lime wedges for garnish
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, green peppers and garlic. Saute until onion is translucent. Add chile paste and tomatoes (break with a fork).
Simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until thickened. Add parsley and cilantro. Mix lightly to combine.
Season fish and shrimp with salt and pepper. Pour tomato mixture into a shallow 2-quart baking dish. Arrange fish on sauce. Top with shrimp. Drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and lime juice. Cover pan with parchment paper then foil. (Aluminum and tomatoes do not mix.)
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until fish flakes easily. Serve fish on a platter with sauce spooned on top. Serve with rice and lime wedges.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 320 calories, 10 grams fat (1.5 grams saturated), 23 grams carbohydrates, 33 grams protein, 3 grams dietary fiber, 560 milligrams sodium.

Fishin’ For A Sandwich

The other day, some of the guys at exercise were teasing Vern Straus about his choice for breakfast.

It seems Vern likes to have a fish sandwich every once in a while when he and his buddies head out to the truck stop after pumping a few weights on Friday mornings.

I’ve never thought about having a fish sandwich for breakfast, but they do pique my interest every once in while, especially if we have some leftover walleye or panfish filets. Warmed up on a bun or a couple of slices of homemade bread and slathered with some tartar sauce, they make an excellent lunch. (I hear the crappie bite is on over at Maple Lake near Mentor, Minn.)

I realize that not everyone is an angler, so having freshly caught fish isn’t an option. But these days, you needn’t look any farther than your local supermarket for some nice filets. You can find just about anything you want.

Since fish fits nicely into spring menus (we already have had salmon several times), I’ve been looking over the selections quite a bit lately. What’s caught my eye most recently have been the tuna filets. I really enjoy tuna on on the Foreman Grill and have been looking for some new recipes.

And it appears that I’m in luck. The tuna club recipe I discovered today looks like a keeper. The sandwich is made with sourdough bread, which is a favorite of mine. But what really sold me on the recipe was the basil mayonnaise, which contains pesto and sour cream.

I might even try it for breakfast.

Fresh Tuna Club
4 6-ounce portions fresh tuna
1 teaspoon sea salt
Black pepper, to taste
12 slices sourdough bread
¼ cup softened butter
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons pure olive oil or canola oil
2 cups arugula
2 vine-ripened tomatoes, sliced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons basil mayonnaise (see recipe below)
Season tuna with salt and pepper. Brush bread with softened butter and sprinkle with Parmesan. Toast bread in oven under broiler, remove and hold warm. Heat olive oil in non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Place tuna in pan and sear about 2 to 3 minutes on each side. This should produce a medium rare piece of tuna; simply increase cooking time for a different doneness. Assemble sandwich in the following manner: 1 slice bread topped with arugula and two slices tomato; drizzle with small amount of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Top with another slice of bread. Brush with basil mayonnaise. Top with two slices tomato and piece of tuna. Top with third slice bread.
To make basil mayonnaise: Combine 1 cup mayonnaise, ¼ cup sour cream and 1 tablespoon pesto. Season to taste with salt. Store in refrigerator.


Herb It Up

Many of you probably are familiar with Mediterranean Diet. It’s the diet that is rich in cereals, wine, fruits, nuts, legumes and whole grains, fish and olive oil. It has been linked to longer life, less heart disease, and protection against some cancers. The diet’s main nutritional components include beta-carotene, vitamin C, tocopherols, polyphenols and essential minerals.

The original Mediterranean diet pyramid was developed by Oldways in 1993 after research showed that people who live in the Mediterraenean area lived long as the result of what they ate. 

Oldways, a widely-respected nonprofit "food issues think tank," now has come up with updated dietary recommendations to take into account a swathe of new studies that have demonstrated the benefits of the eating plan.

The three primary changes involve the prominence of all plant-based foods, increased recommendations for fish consumption and the addition of herbs and spices.

I find the third one most interesting. I’m a big fan of using herbs in cooking. It’s one of the ways I’ve been able to cut back on my consumption of red meat to once or twice a week at the most.

Oldways said it has included herbs and spices in the pyramid to reflect increased evidence of their health-promoting characteristics and the role they play in increasing the acceptability of foods.

We all know how good meat tastes, and many people feel that other foods are bland by comparison. But by cooking with herbs, you can immensely enhance the flavor of almost any meatless dish well beyond the point of palatability.

The following recipe for Oven-Baked Salmon hits on all three of Oldway’s suggestions for the updated diet — it has vegetables, fish and herbs.

I can’t wait to try it.

Oven-Baked Salmon with Sun-Dried Tomato and Salsa Mayonnaise
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 (about 3 pounds) skinless, boneless salmon fillet, pin bones removed
1½ teaspoons salt, divided use
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided use
¼ cup hazelnuts
About 1 large slice country-style bread (enough to make ¾ cup fresh bread crumbs)
4 ounces (about ¾ cup) sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
¾ cup store-bought fresh or homemade salsa
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups mayonnaise
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Garnish: 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh herbs (mixture of parsley, tarragon, chives, chervil)
Prepare fish: Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Oil oven-proof platter large enough to hold fish in single layer. Place salmon on platter and sprinkle with ¾ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Turn salmon over and sprinkle with remaining salt and pepper.
Place hazelnuts in food processor fitted with metal blade. Process until roughly ground. Tear bread into pieces and add. Pulse until bread is in medium crumbs. Scatter mixture over fish. Bake 40 to 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare mayonnaise: Place sun-dried tomatoes and a little of their oil in food processor fitted with metal blade. Add salsa and process until smooth. Transfer to bowl and mix in salt, mayonnaise and chives.
When salmon is done, remove from oven and sprinkle with chopped fresh herbs. Serve warm or at room temperature accompanied with sun-dried tomato and salsa mayonnaise.
Yield: Serves 12.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving with 1 tablespoon salsa-mayonnaise: 290 calories (40 percent from fat), 13 grams fat (4.5 grams saturated), 11 grams protein, 33 grams carbohydrates, 1.3 grams fiber, 32 milligrams cholesterol, 750 milligrams sodium.

Fall Into Spring With Parsnip Spice Cake

I’m going to dig my parsnips today.

Some people might think that a bit strange — harvesting vegetables in the spring instead of the fall. But most gardeners know that parsnips are one of the few veggies that can be left in the ground over the winter — even with the harsh weather we sometimes have on the Great Plains and the northern Red River Valley.

Carrrots are another, but they’re a bit touchier. With carrots, you need to get them out of the ground nearly as soon as the frost goes out or you’ll end up with mush. Parsnips, on the other hand, stay firmer much longer.

My gardening buddy, Darrel Koehler, just dug the last of his two days ago and said they we as solid as a rock, with tap roots that went so deep some broke off. (Parsnips are readily available in most supermarkets.)

After digging my parsnips, I generally like to wash them, blanche them and then vacuum seal for use later in soups and stews. I’m thinking some of this year’s crop even would go nicely in a winter vegetable hash (recipe follows).

Of course, some of the parsnips almost immediately will be sauteed in a little butter and seasoned with salt and pepper for a nice side dish. And I’ve also come across another recipe for a parsnip spice cake that looks intriguing. It probably will be a lot like carrot cake.

It’s sure nice to have fresh veggies in the spring!

Parsnip Spice Cake with Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¾ teaspoon ground allspice
¾ teaspoon ground cloves
3 large eggs
½ cup canola oil or vegetable oil
½ cup whole milk
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
2 cups (packed) shredded peeled parsnips (about 3 large)
½ cup walnuts, toasted, chopped
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
3 cups (about 12 ounces) powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan. Combine flour, sugar, ground ginger, baking powder, cinnamon, ¾ teaspoon salt, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves in large bowl; whisk to combine. Whisk eggs, oil, milk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla in medium bowl to combine. Pour egg mixture over dry ingredients; stir until just combined. Stir in parsnips and walnuts. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool cake completely in pan on rack.
Beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until smooth. Beat in fresh ginger and remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon vanilla. Gradually add powdered sugar and beat until frosting is smooth. Spread over cake. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.)
Yield: Serves 12 to 16.

Winter Vegetable Hash
1 small celery root, diced
1 large turnip, diced
1 pound parsnips, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
1 medium potato, diced
2 cloves minced garlic
½ cup chopped onion
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 cup white wine vinegar
Peel vegetables. Cut into ½-inch cubes. Combine in a large bowl with garlic and onion and mix well.
Heat olive oil in a large, deep frying pan over medium-high heat. Add diced vegetables and saute for 15 minutes, turning occasionally with a spatula. Stir in salt, thyme and rosemary. Add vinegar and toss with the vegetables, turning rapidly with a spatula until vinegar has evaporated.
Place pan of vegetables in an oven preheated to 350 degrees. Roast for 45 minutes, or until vegetables are soft and top begins to brown.
Yield: Serves 8 to 10.

Go Nuts — With Walnut-Crusted Tuna Kebabs

Using a stove-top grill such as the Foreman is one real easy way to cook.

Just the other night, I fixed a couple of salmon filets that had been briefly marinated in a little soy sauce and white wine along with some sea salt and minced garlic and ginger. Along with steamed broccoli, half a baked potato and a nice salad, it was a tasty and nutritious meal.

I’ve come across another stove-top recipe that looks pretty awesome, this one for Walnut-Crusted Tuna Kebabs. And a study that recently came to my attention makes this recipe look quite nutritious as well.

Research at Loma Linda University in California just published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition compares the effects of walnuts and fatty fish in the fight against heart disease, demonstrating that in healthy individuals, walnuts lower cholesterol more than fish, while fatty fish lower triglycerides. Both can reduce the overall risk of coronary heart disease. (To access the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition manuscript reference doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.26736S on the Internet)

What this means in practical terms is that eating an easy-to-incorporate amount of walnuts and fatty fish can cause meaningful decreases in blood cholesterol and triglycerides even in healthy individuals, according to the study’s lead author, Sujatha Rajaram, PhD, associate professor in the department of nutrition at Loma Linda University School of Public Health.

Specifically, following the qualified health claim issued by the Food and Drug Administration, researchers found that incorporating approximately 1.5 ounces of walnuts (42 grams, a handful of whole nuts or about 3 tablespoons of chopped nuts) into the daily diet lowered serum total cholesterol by 5.4 percent and LDL (bad) cholesterol by 9.3 percent compared to a control diet based on U.S. Department of Agriculture recommendations.

And using American Heart Association guidelines, the researchers also found that a diet including two servings of fatty fish per week (roughly 4 ounces each as recommended by the AHA for individuals without heart disease) decreased triglyceride levels by 11.4 percent. Additionally, it increased HDL (good) cholesterol by 4 percent, but also slightly increased LDL (bad) cholesterol compared to the control diet. (Omega 3 oils are found primarily in cold-water fatty fish such as fresh tuna, mackerel, herring and salmon. Some say omega 3 is to the brain what protein is to muscles and calcium is to bones.)

Dr. Rajaram added, “Individuals should strive to include a plant source of omega-3 fat in their diet, like walnuts, and also a marine source of omega-3 fat.”

Here is the recipe for the Walnut-Crusted Tuna Kebab. Serve it with Onion-Pepper Rice.

Go nuts!

Walnut-Crusted Tuna Kebabs
¾ pound tuna steak, cut into 1-inch cubes
¼ cup low-sugar apricot jam or jelly
2 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts
1 medium zucchini cut into ½-inch slices (about 2 cups)
8 grape or cherry tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Heat the stove-top grill or broiler. Mix the jam and walnuts in a bowl. Add the tuna cubes, mixing to coat. Thread tuna on 2 skewers. Thread zucchini alternately with tomatoes on 2 other skewers. With stove-top grill, cook 5 minutes, then turn and cook 2 more minutes. With broiler, cook on a foiled-lined baking sheet 5 inches from the heat for the same amount of time. (Reduce time by 1 minute per side for rare tuna.) Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Yield: Serves 2.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 383 calories (17 percent from fat), 7.2 grams fat (1 gram saturated, 1.1 gram monounsaturated), 78 milligrams cholesterol, 44.2 grams protein, 37.7 grams carbohydrates, 4.4 grams fiber, 96 milligrams sodium.
Onion-Pepper Rice
½ cup frozen chopped onion
½ cup frozen chopped green pepper
1 8-ounce package microwave brown rice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Place onion and green pepper in a bowl; microwave on high 1 minute to defrost; set aside. Microwave rice according to package instructions (60 to 90 seconds for most brands). Stir into the onion and rice, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
Yield: Serves 2.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 192 calories (15 percent from fat), 3.1 grams fat (0.4 grams saturated, 0.8 grams monounsaturated), no cholesterol, 4.5 grams protein, 37.2 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 6 milligrams sodium.

Eggs Benedict

Anyone who’s familiar with my blog will notice that the Culinary Institute of America is one of my favorite Web destinations. The CIA site always has interesting tips and recipes as well as cooking demonstrations on video.

Founded in 1946, the CIA is an independent, not-for-profit college offering bachelor’s and associate degrees, as well as certificate programs, in either culinary arts or baking and pastry arts. Its alumni include well-known chefs such as Anthony Bourdain, Michael Chiarello, Duff Goldman and Sara Moulton.

I’m lucky to be on the CIA’s e-mailing list, so every few weeks or so, something interesting arrives in my inbox. The most recent correspondence was a feature about Eggs Benedict, which the CIA suggests for Mother’s Day.

I’ve only made Eggs Benedict a couple of times, and the last was so long ago, my memory is a bit foggy.

What I do remember vividly, though, is my first experience with the quintessential brunch dish that features creamy Hollandaise sauce, savory Canadian bacon, tender poached eggs and toasted English muffins. It was in Topeka, Kan., at the home of my then-married friends, Nancy Maxwell and Ted Frederickson, both university professors — she at Washburn University School of Law and he at Kansas University School of Journalism. As I recall, the meal was simply amazing.

Which brings me back to the CIA recipe. After opening the CIA e-mail and reading the Eggs Benedict recipe and then viewing the cooking demos on how to fix the tasty dish, my mouth started to water.

I’m going to give the recipe a try, and suggest you might, too. Following are the recipes for the English muffins, the Hollandaise sauce and the poached eggs as well as links to the demos.

These recipes, along with more than 175 others, are explained and illustrated in The Culinary Institute of America’s Breakfasts and Brunches cookbook (Lebhar-Freidman 2005, $35), which is available for purchase at bookstores nationwide or at


Eggs Benedict Part 1: English Muffins —

Eggs Benedict Part 2: Poached Eggs —

Eggs Benedict Part 3: Hollandaise Sauce —

Eggs Benedict
16 slices Canadian bacon
16 poached eggs (recipe follows)
8 English muffins (recipe follows), split, toasted, and buttered
2 cups Hollandaise sauce (recipe follows)
Heat a sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the Canadian bacon and saute on both sides until heated through, about 1 to 2 minutes on each side.
If eggs have been poached in advance, reheat them in simmering water until warmed through and blot on toweling. Top each English muffin half with a slice of Canadian bacon and a poached egg. Spoon warm Hollandaise over each egg and serve.
Yield: Serves 8.
English Muffins
1½ teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup water, warmed to 110 degrees
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup cornmeal, or as needed
Oil or solid vegetable shortening, as needed
Place the yeast and warm water in the bowl of a mixer and stir to completely dissolve. Let the yeast proof until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the flour, butter, sugar, and salt to the yeast mixture. Mix ingredients together on low speed using the dough hook until all ingredients are blended, about 2 minutes.
Increase the speed to medium-high and mix until the dough is smooth, another 5 minutes.
Shape the dough into a ball and place it into a lightly greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 2 hours. Fold the dough gently over on itself in three or four places and turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.
Divide dough into 12 equal pieces. Shape into rounds and place on sheet pans that have been heavily dusted with cornmeal. Turn each muffin over to coat both sides with cornmeal. Cover and let rise until slightly risen, about 30 minutes.
Preheat a griddle over medium heat and brush lightly with oil or shortening. Cook the English muffins until lightly brown on the bottom, about 5 minutes. Turn the muffins over and cook until golden brown, another 5 minutes.
Split the English muffins by pulling them apart with a table fork. Toast them just before serving. Serve very hot.
Yield: Serves 12.
Approximate nutritonal analysis per one-ounce serving: 120 calories, 3 grams protein, 18 grams carbohydrates, 3.5 grams fat, 200 milligrams sodium, 5 milligrams cholesterol, less than 1 gram fiber.
Poached Eggs
3 quarts water, or as needed
2 teaspoons salt
6 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
16 large eggs
Combine the water, salt and vinegar in a deep pan and bring to a gentle simmer.
Break each egg into a clean cup, and carefully slide each egg into the poaching water. Cook until the whites are set and opaque, about 3 minutes.
Remove the eggs from the water with a slotted spoon and blot them on absorbent toweling. Serve immediately or store chilled eggs in the refrigerator until needed.
Yield: Serves 8.
Approximate nutritional analysis per egg: 90 calories, 6 grams protein, no carbohydrates, 7 grams fat, 95 milligrams sodium, 210 milligrams cholesterol, no fiber.
Hollandaise Sauce
½ teaspoon cracked peppercorns
¼ cup white wine or cider vinegar
¼ cup water, or as needed
4 large fresh egg yolks
1½ cups melted whole butter, unsalted
2 teaspoons lemon juice, or as needed
2 teaspoons salt, or as needed
Pinch ground white pepper
Pinch cayenne (optional)
Combine the peppercorns and vinegar in a small pan and reduce over medium heat until nearly dry, about 5 minutes. Add the water to the vinegar reduction. Strain this liquid into a stainless steel bowl.
Add the egg yolks to the vinegar reduction and set the bowl over a pot of simmering water. Whisking constantly, cook the egg yolk/vinegar mixture until the yolks triple in volume and fall in ribbons from the whisk. Remove the bowl from the simmering water and place it on a clean kitchen towel to keep the bowl from slipping.
Gradually ladle the warm butter into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. If the sauce becomes too thick and the butter is not blending in easily, add a little water to thin the egg mixture enough to whisk in the remaining butter. Season the Hollandaise with lemon juice, salt, pepper and cayenne if desired. Serve immediately or keep the sauce warm in a bowl over simmering water.
Yield: 2 cups.
Approximate nutritional analysis per 9.5-ounce serving: 730 calories, 29 grams protein, 36 grams carbohydrates, 52 grams fat, 1,420 milligrams sodium, 645 milligrams cholesterol, 2 grams fiber.

Eat Green on Earth Day

Today is Earth Day. Can you think of a better way to celebrate than to fix a dish that’s easy on the environment?

Your best option would be to prepare something that features seasonal fruits or vegetables, ones that are less likely to contain harmful pesticides.

That means you should avoid the likes of peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, imported grapes, spinach, lettuce and potatoes, which typically have the highest pesticide levels, according to the Environmental Working Group in Washington, D.C.

So, what does that leave you? Just to name a few, there are onions, avocados, frozen sweet corn, pineapples, mangoes, asparagus, frozen peas, kiwi, bananas, cabbage, broccoli and papayas. These fruits and veggies have the lowest pesticide levels.

And if you decide to go organic, just about anything goes. By doing so, you could cut your pesticide exposure by almost 90 percent.

Do you still need more suggestions. Try asparagus, blueberries, cabbage, cauliflower, mushrooms and peas.

A good way to get a bunch of these fruits and vegetables on your table at the same time would be kabobs on the grill. They would make a colorful and nutritious side dish. 

Here’s my suggestion. Give it a try, and tell me what you think. 

Grilled Vegetable Kabobs
12 new organic red potatoes
2 onions
1 organic green bell pepper
1 organic red bell pepper
1 organic yellow bell pepper
12 large mushrooms
12 cherry tomatoes
1/3 cup butter
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ teaspoon garlic salt
½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
Prepare and preheat grill. Peel a thin strip around the center of each small new potato and place in saucepan with onions. Cover with water, bring to a boil, and simmer for 6 to 8 minutes until potatoes are barely tender. Drain well. Cut each onion into 6 wedges. Seed bell peppers and cut each into 6 wedges.
Melt butter in small saucepan and stir in cheese, salt and thyme leaves. Thread vegetables onto 12 metal skewers and grill 4 to 6 inches from medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes. Brush kabobs frequently with butter sauce and turn frequently, until vegetables are tender.
Yield: Serves 6.
Note: You can substitute just about any vegetable or fruit for kabobs. Pineapple is another excellent choice.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 280 calories, 7 grams fat, 47 grams
carbohydrates, 180 milligrams sodium.