Saturday, November 17, 2012

Looking for a great date night?

We have walked past Marx Fusion Bistro I don't know how many times.  There were a few times we thought of trying it, but the wait was always too long for a last minute decision to eat there.

Friday night we stopped in again, last minute, to see if we could get a table.  Apparently we arrived before the crowd and were able to get right in.  The restaurant was still busy, but had a few 2 person tables available.

The tables in the bar area were slightly cramped, but had a nice view of the main street outside.

We started with two appetizers, the Tuna Tartare and the Empanadas.

The tuna was served raw, on sticky rice with diced mango between the rice and tuna.  The glaze that was on the plate was amazing-a mango, orange and chili sauce with a sweet balsamic reduction drizzled through.  The mix of spice and citrus was a great compliment to the sweetness of the reduced balsamic.  The green onion that topped it off was tempura battered.

The empanada was perfectly done.  I don't have a photo of it.  It was stuffed with spicy beef, a little mozzarella, and served with guacamole.  Some empanada can be greasy but this one had a light flaky outside.  A lime cilantro cabbage slaw was served on the side.

For our main course we shared the Butter Poached Salmon.  It was served on leek risotto, which was creamy and had just the right amount of leek flavor.  We had asked about the doneness of the salmon before ordering, and it came just as advertised.  We don't typically order salmon at restaurants because it is frequently overdone.  This was a perfect medium on the spectrum of rare to well done.  We may have startled the waitress a little when we asked, she said it could be done more if we wanted and we answered simultaneously "NO, medium is perfect!"   Keep in mind, this is coming from a couple that loves sashimi.  The salmon was topped with green olives, capers, tomatoes in a buttery rosemary infused sauce.

To finish off the night, we selected the almond cake.  We hadn't seen a written description of it, so were a little surprised that it had more of a coconut flavor than almond.  The frosting was creamy with grated coconut and chopped almonds.  The cake was slightly dry, but that was offset a little by the creaminess of the frosting.  We chose a 20 year port, but this cake would also be great with coffee.

As far as ambiance, it was a little loud for conversation.  Although, we did need to lean in closer to hear each other, which is never a bad thing!  I would recommend it for a date night-I can see it being a great place to get a few glasses of wine and appetizers.  Portion sizes were large so sharing was easy.  With 2 apps, 1 entree and a dessert, we had plenty to share.  For us, 1 app, 1 entree and a dessert would have been plenty.

Kudos to my husband for the awesome photos!

Hello again!

It's been a while since I posted!  Busyness of life and all that I suppose.

Most of my recipe posts will now be on the blog at  
This is the site for Look Good Naked boot camp.  Some of you know I've been involved as a participant with LGN since January of 2012.  I love it!  Everything about it.  Even the crazy soreness that follows this old body a day after the workouts!  What I truly love and have wanted to be involved in though is the nutrition portion.  

I am a self confessed recipe hoarder, and this gives me an opportunity to share some of those recipes with others.  I'm still learning so much about nutrition and hope to be able to pass along some of that knowledge to others.

I will still post some here from time to time.  The 'not so great for you but taste amazing' recipes I'll save for this blog :-)  And as winter approaches, trying new restaurants becomes our weekend past time, so look for more restaurant reviews and photos.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The 'famous' weekly menu

Some of you know I try to plan out a menu for our dinners every week.  I like to be organized, and if I don't have the menu planned, I don't do well cooking dinner on the fly.  Usually meat is still frozen, I'm missing ingredients, etc.  It does not make for a good afternoon if I don't know ahead of time what to make for dinner!  I plan it out according to what I already have in the house, what activities we have going on each night, and what is on sale at the grocery store (or what I have found at the farmers market) that week.  This also saves time not running to the grocery store more than once or twice-those little trips add up especially if you're working, running kids around, and all those other things that occupy our time in the afternoons.

I usually plan for 5 nights, trying to have it all planned by Sunday evening for the week ahead.  We save the leftovers to eat for lunches.  Sometimes I only make 4 and we have leftovers one night, depending on the size of the meal.  We have also eaten half, then I freeze the remainder for another weeknight a week or two later.  Soup is a good example of this.  We eat it once, freeze the rest and it makes a quick heat up dinner on a busy night, rather than freezing individual portions.

This week on the menu:
Italian Quinoa Casserole with mixed green salad
White Chicken Chili
Chickpeas in Coconut Sauce with spinach
Healthy Chicken Stroganoff with peas
Grilled Steaks with Vegetable Kabobs and Pesto Gnocchi

If anyone wants the specific recipes, let me know and I would be happy to email them to you!

Italian Quinoa Casserole

What in the world is Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah)?!  It is a little grain that packs a big punch!  It is gluten free, high in fiber and a complete protein.  For the following recipe I used Tri-Color Quinoa from Trader Joes.

This link has a wide variety of information about Quinoa:

This recipe was originally called Quick Quinoa Lasagna.  But not having noodles threw my family off, so I changed up the name a little.  The taste is basically the same though as a lasagna.  I used Hot Italian Sausage which gave it that Italian flavor and a little heat.

One note on cooking Quinoa.  Follow the package directions, including the rinsing.  If you skip the rinse step, the Quinoa will be bitter.  Make sure you are using a colander with fine mesh, otherwise it will all flow out the bottom and down your drain!

When assembling this dish, you may need to be careful when spreading the cheese mixture, as it is thicker than the Quinoa.  I used my hands (CLEAN!) to pull it apart to get a more even layer.  The Quinoa spreads well with the back of a wooden spoon.

Italian Quinoa Casserole
-makes 12 servings
1 can Diced or Petite Diced Tomatoes (about 15 oz)
2 8oz cans Tomato Sauce
2 tsp Oregano
1 large Onion, diced
4 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1lb Lean Ground Meat (Italian sausage, lean beef, turkey or chicken)
3C Cooked Quinoa
8oz Ricotta Cheese
8oz Mozzarella Cheese
8oz Parmesan Cheese

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
-In a large pan, brown the ground meat.  Drain any fat off the meat.  Remove from pan and set aside.  In the same pan, add the olive oil and heat to medium.  Add the onion and saute until soft, but do not brown.  Add in the garlic, and cook stirring often for 1 minute.  Add the meat back to the pan.  Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce and oregano.  Reduce the heat and gently simmer until heated through.
-In a separate bowl, mix together all three cheeses, reserving about 1/4C of the mozzarella and 1/4C of Parmesan.
-In a 9x13 pan, place a thin layer of the sauce, followed by a layer of Quinoa and a layer of the cheeses.  Repeat this pattern ending with sauce.  Add the 1/4C of both reserved cheeses on top.
-Bake uncovered for 35 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.  It will cut easier after it stands.

The finished product-

Great with a large salad on the side!

You can see the grains of Quinoa a little more in this photo:

Friday, March 23, 2012

Curried Chickpeas-vegetarian dinner

This is one of my FAVORITE recipes.  It originally came from Sunset magazine (which by the way offers great healthy recipes on a regular basis).  This is meatless yet filling and can be modified for those who do not like spicy food.  I leave the heat out until the end that way the kids eat it as well.

Curried Chickpeas and Tomatoes
(modified from Garbanzo Tomato Curry)
-makes 6-8 servings

1 onion, chopped (yellow works best-stronger flavor)
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 Tbsp grapeseed oil (or olive or canola)
1 Tbsp curry powder
1/2 Tbsp mustard seed
1/2 Tbsp whole cumin seed
2 cans chick peas (also labeled garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
1 32oz can diced or petite diced tomatoes (undrained)
Cayenne powder to taste
Hot sauce to taste (Franks or Tabasco)
Chopped Cilantro
Plain yogurt
Cooked Jasmine or Basmati rice (about 1/2 C per serving)

In a large pan heat oil over medium heat.  Add onions, ginger and garlic until onion just begins to brown, about 6 minutes.  Add curry powder, mustard and cumin seeds and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add chickpeas and tomatoes (with juice).  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, simmer uncovered stirring occasionally to blend flavors, about 5 minutes.  If the mixture is thicker than desired, stir in a little water to thin.

Serve in shallow bowls with rice.  Spoon 1/4-1/2 C yogurt next to the chickpeas.  Top with cilantro and cayenne or hot sauce to taste.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


Everyone knows soda isn't great for you.  We try to limit how much our kids get.  My husband and I used to drink it, but could count on one hand the times we have had it in the past 3 years.  It is typically reserved for a special treat if the kids ask for it.  And even then, I try to go with root beer or something that I view as not quite so bad (I don't know why, I'm sure it has just as much sugar as others)  About a week ago, my son had a party at school and chose Mt. Dew to bring with.  No, it was not my proudest parenting moment.  I had just read an article about how many tsps were in a gram of sugar the day before.  It works out to 4g = 1 tsp sugar.  So doing the calculations, here is how much sugar is in a 16 oz bottle of Mt. Dew (which is technically 2.5 servings, but who measures that out, so I'm going on the assumption that this is what one person drinks.

Almost 1/2 CUP!!!!  I think I will be limiting even more-YUCK!
Let's hear it for water :-)

Poached eggs and veggie 'hash'

I have been wanting egg poaching pods for quite a while.  I have not tried poaching an egg before in the traditional method, but my husband has, not getting the results we wanted.  Poached eggs should have the nice firm whites with runny yolks.  When we were on the cleanse, he made a poached egg hash, that turned out more like a hard yolk egg on sweet potato hash.

I bought some poaching pods this past weekend and tried them out this morning.  They worked PERFECTLY.  Firm white with a yolk that ran off into my hash.  It was wonderful!

Here are what the pods look like.  They have a tag when you purchase them with directions on how to poach eggs and make other things like Flan.  SUPER easy.

My recipe for the hash is as follows.

Sweet Potato Veggie Hash with Poached Egg
-makes 2 servings
2 large eggs (poached according to pod directions-needs 4 minutes to cook so it is a good idea to start 1/2 way through the cooking time of the veggies)
1/3 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
4 stalks asparagus, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 C fresh spinach, roughly chopped
1 small zucchini, diced
1 small onion, diced
Coconut Oil

Place 1/2 Tbsp coconut oil in a pan on medium heat.  Once melted, add sweet potatoes.  Cook over medium heat until slightly browned, stirring often.  Add asparagus after about 3 minutes.  Cook 2 minutes, stirring often.  Add in onion and zucchini.  Cook until onion is opaque and soft.  Add in spinach and stir/cook until wilted.  Place on plate.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste (you won't need much at all)  Top with poached egg.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Meatless Stuffed Peppers

Another recipe I have made this week is stuffed bell peppers.  No meat.  Veggies and Rice only.

Stuffed Bell Peppers
6 Green Bell Peppers, cored
1 1/4 C cooked Wild Rice
1 1/4 C cooked Brown Rice
1 or 2 Zucchini, diced
2 stalks Celery, diced
1C Baby Carrots (or 2 large), diced
1 Red Onion, finely diced
1 Yellow Onion, finely diced
1 Roasted Red Bell Pepper, diced
1 can Water Chestnuts, diced
1-2 eggs, whisked (these are optional-they help bind the rest together but aren't necessary)
1 can Tomato Paste
1 can Tomato Sauce
Dried oregano
Sea Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper to taste
Olive Oil
(optional is to add some diced roasted poblano peppers or diced jalapenos to add some heat to the dish)

Preheat oven to 375.

In a small bowl, empty both cans of tomato.  Add approximately 1 tsp oregano.  Whisk until smooth.

Place peppers into baking dish/casserole dish.  Place 1 Tbsp tomato mixture into bottom of each pepper.

Bring a large pan to medium heat, add one turn around the pan of olive oil (about 1/2 to 1 Tbsp)  Add in onions, celery, carrots.  Cook for 3 minutes.  Add in zucchini. Cook stirring frequently until veggies are crisp tender and onion is opaque.  Stir in rices, water chestnuts and roasted red pepper.  Heat through.  Turn off heat and cool slightly.  Place in a bowl and add in the whisked eggs until fully mixed.

Fill each bell pepper with rice mixture.  Top each pepper with remaining tomato mixture.

Cover casserole dish and bake at 375 for 1 hour.  You can remove the cover 15 minutes before done.  Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes.

Getting Creative

My husband and I are in the middle of a cleanse/detox program from Standard Process.  It is 21 days of no processed, no sugar, no caffeine, no alcohol.  The first 10 days are also meatless, with protein coming from shakes with protein powder.

Eggs are not on the plan, but they are a pure protein/fat so we have added them in place of shakes, especially for lunch.  We can have a portion of brown or wild rice, or lentils daily.  This calls for a rice cake, not the over processed kind, but there are organic cakes that have only organic brown rice and sea salt, which technically, fits the bill.  Day 11 we are allowed to have fish or chicken for the remaining days.

I had heard about mixing egg and avocado, but wasn't quite sure about mixing what I perceived as guacamole with a hard boiled egg.  Well, let me tell you, I am a believer!  I made an egg salad sandwich of sorts for lunch today.  Healthy protein, healthy fat, the perfect mid day meal.  This recipe replaces the non healthy mayo with avocado, which adds the creaminess.  Here is what it looked like along with the recipe, which is quite simple! Good for you and it was amazingly filling.

'Clean' Egg Salad Sandwich
1 hard boiled egg
1/2 avocado
1 Tbsp spicy brown mustard
1 organic brown rice cake
3 lettuce leaves
salt and pepper

In a small bowl, mash together the avocado and the egg yolk.  Finely chop the egg white and add to the bowl.  Add mustard; salt, pepper and paprika to taste.  Mix well.  Place salad mix on top of the rice cake, top with paprika.  You can add the lettuce under or over the salad, or eat separately.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wild Rice Pilaf, heavy on the veggies

Here is my second recipe that is good on the cleanse, as well as off.  We still make this almost weekly, even without a specific food diet.  This is something my kids love, and it is a great way to get your veggies and grains all in one pan, which honestly, some nights is a bigger deal than others!  It goes really well as a side to trout or salmon.
Wild Rice Pilaf

1C wild rice, cooked according to package directions.
1 red onion, diced
1-2 shallots, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, fronds removed and bulb diced
(you can chop up some of the fronds as well like you would dill)
2-3 carrots, diced
1 sweet potato, diced
2 parsnips, diced
2-3 celery stalks, diced
8oz package baby Bella (brown) mushrooms, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green pepper, diced
2 zucchini, diced (one yellow, one green gives the dish nice color
2-3 hot peppers, finely chopped (totally optional-we like hot food!)
Fresh Thyme
Fresh Parsley
Olive Oil

In a separate pan, cook the mushrooms until done to your liking.  Only turn once, otherwise they will be soft.

Over medium heat, add 1 tsp olive oil to the pan.  Add root vegetables first (carrots, sweet potatoes, parsnips).  Cook for just a few minutes, stirring often so they don't burn.  Add in onions, garlic, shallots, fennel, peppers.  Cook until just opaque.  Add herbs and zucchini.  Cook a few minutes so zucchini is still firm.  Add wild rice (if on the cleanse diet, add enough for about 4-6 servings, you will have plenty of leftovers.) and heat through.  Add more olive oil to taste if needed at any time during cooking.

Add salt and pepper to taste.  I like to use Truffle Salt at the end too-but that's only if you really like the wild mushroom flavor.  You can use dried herbs in place of the fresh, but you need to add them with the first veggies so they have time to work in.  In my opinion, you can't beat the fresh herbs.  Their cost isn't as hard to stomach when you realize you can use one of the small packages for multiple recipes.

With this recipe, you can add or take out any vegetable you like (some we have added include leeks, peas, pea pods, cabbage, artichoke hearts).  I like it all diced for consistency, but that's just me :-)  You can also cook longer if you prefer the veggies softer.  We liked a little texture to it-I cook the veggies so they were still crisp.

You could also replace the wild rice with lentils (another approved grain on the cleanse)  Both work quite well with this dish.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Veggie Tacos recipe

I was asked to put a few recipes up by my sister in law, who is a chiropractor.  Her clinic offers a 21 day cleanse that my husband and I have done yearly for the past two years.  Since we like variety and love to cook, we had to come up with a few different ideas to make it through the first few days especially, since there is no meat involved until day 11 of 21.
This is our recipe for veggie tacos.  We also made taco meat (ground beef or chicken) for our kids when we had this, since they did not go on the full cleanse with us.  All other items were the same.

Vegetable Tacos
1 each red, green, yellow peppers, sliced thin
2-3 jalapenos, seeded and sliced thin (red or green)
1 red and 1 white onion, sliced thin
2-3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 zucchini, cut julienne or peeled thin using a vegetable peeler
2-3 carrots, julienne sliced (optional-we added them from time to time for variety)
1 head romaine lettuce, stem ends trimmed, leaves left whole
2-5 diced roma tomatoes (or other fresh tomatoes)
2 green poblano peppers, roasted, skinned and seeded, then diced
1 lime sliced into wedges
Ancho chile powder
Green Onions
Brown Rice

Slice avocado in half, remove pit, cube and place in small bowl.  Mash avocado, add 1-2 sliced green onions, 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, lime juice and cumin to taste.  Set aside.
Heat skillet over high heat.  Add peppers and onions (and carrots if using).  Continue to stir so still crisp, but browned on at least one side.  Use a little water so they don't stick to the hot pan.  You are making this like fajitas.  Once onions and peppers are just about done you your liking, add in the garlic and zucchini.  Cook slightly so the zucchini is still crisp.  Add about 1 tsp of oil (olive or grapeseed) to the mixture.  Add in chili powder and cumin to taste (about 1 tsp of each)  Mix well over medium heat.

Serve all items on the table family style so each person can adjust what they like on their taco.
Lettuce leaves serve as shells.
Brown rice (see cleanse portions)
Diced Tomatoes
Avocado (guac mix)
Pepper/Onion mix
Roasted Poblanos
Lime Wedges
Green onions and Cilantro to garnish
Additional sliced jalapenos for garnish

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Little Szechwan St. Paul never disappoints

We had lunch today at Little Szechwan in St. Paul on University Ave. with some great friends who are foodies too.  There is a standing challenge between the couples who can order the spiciest dish.  We have had some great ones...Fish Fillet with Szechuan Peppercorn and Fish Fillet in Spicy Tofu Broth are two of the most memorable dishes.  Today our friend ordered the Beef in Szechuan Spicy Broth and won hands down.

The szechwan peppercorns are deceivingly hot-a clear broth with fish, green veggies and stalks of peppercorns.  The spicy tofu broth and the beef in spicy broth are dishes that not only have a chili oil slick on the top of the bowl, they also have an obscene amount of chili flakes and at times sliced serrano chilies. 

An article on the wall from Dara Moskowitz, Food Critic at City Pages said that "Little Szechuan is the real deal, a Szechuan specialist that uses chili peppers the way blizzards use snow."  Perfect description! 

Other great menu items are the green beans, fried rice, lettuce wraps and egg drop soup (all of which are loved by the kids).  Little Szechwan has a wide variety of heat in their dishes.  There is something for everyone on their menu.  Portions are large, reasonably priced-you will come away full, with plenty of leftovers for another meal.

Here is our spread from lunch today
Up close and personal of the Beef in Spicy Szechwan Broth

Fish Fillet in Spicy Tofu Broth from an earlier visit