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Tag Archives: healthy food

Totto Ramen

Most of us are familiar with ramen, the Japanese noodle, in its instant form boiled down to the dull consistency of mush and soaked with MSG-laden miso soup that’s more water than miso. But for really good authentic ramen, look no farther than mid-town Manhattan’s Totto Ramen, offering freshly brewed broth and chewy noodles that actually taste egg-y. The younger and less expensive rival of Ippudo, Totto restaurant offers a limited palate of ramen and meager side dishes, but a smorgasbord of toppings and your choice of pork or chicken to go along with your noodles. In other words, it may be minimalist but it does what it does well.

Totto’s small crowded space means long lines, a waitlist, and often tables shared with strangers during lunchtime. One can opt to take a bar stool instead, and watch cooks practice their forte, or avoid the eatery’s unusual noontime opening rush by dining at a later hour. Prepare to bring green moola to this cash-only, no-advanced-reservations establishment.

For first timers, Totto Miso Ramen is the most appealing ramen to try with basic garnishes such as a boiled egg, scallions, and thick miso paste. Those who want a little raw sashimi with their modest-sized meal may want to nip at the Avo Tuna appetizer before happily tucking in.

Totto Ramen
366 W 52nd Street (Between 8th & 9th Avenues)
New York, NY 10019
(212) 582-0052

Totto Miso Ramen $10.50
Avo Tuna $4.50

Writer’s Tip: If you want to share your meal, make sure to ask the wait staff for an additional empty bowl. Extra utensils will already be provided on your table.


Roasted Butternut Squash, Feta, and Apple Salad

How much of a recipe do you have to change to make it your own? I often wonder this as I look through some of the reviews on different recipe sites where people say, “Well, I made this, but changed EVERYTHING about it”.  I found this recipe on Epicurious, but by the time I was done, it looked a whole lot different.

To be honest, I don’t really know what endives are, and blue cheese is such a strong flavor, I knew many in my house would turn their nose. So here’s my take on it, as well as instructions on easily dealing with a butternut squash — delicious but deadly without the right instruments.

Roasted Butternut Squash, Feta, and Apple Salad

1 butternut squash, cubed into 1″ pieces
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 green apples, matchsticked
4 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 head of romaine lettuce, torn up small

For butternut squash:
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tsp brown sugar

For dressing:
1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice

Peel and cube squash**. Preheat oven 400 degrees. Whisk together vinegar and sugar. Brush squash with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast 5 minutes. Brush with vinegar and sugar mix, and roast another 5 minutes. Turn and shake it up, and then roast 45 mins-1 hour, or until soft and tender. Let cool, and add salt & pepper to taste. Combine with other salad ingredients, whisk together dressing and drizzle on top, and serve.

** Butternut squash is hard as a rock. To peel and cube it, you need a seriously sharp vegetable peeler, and a very long, extra-sharp knife. I’m not kidding.  Use low-quality tools, and you’ll be fighting with it, which can easily result in injuring yourself, and a trip to the hospital ain’t much fun.

Even with good instruments, this can take a while, so it can be done earlier and just stored in the fridge up to 1 day.  Cut the squash in half, separating the long skinny part from the bottom bulbous part. Cut off the ends, making yourself two cylindrical shapes that easily stand on a cutting board. Remove the seeds and string from the bottom half using a fork or a grapefruit spoon.  Peel in long skinny strips until you hit bright orange. Then cut in halves and halves again until you can easily cube 1″ pieces.

Roast Chicken Breasts with Garbanzo Beans, Tomatoes, Spinach and Rice Pilaf

I will tell you this – I have never been led astray by a Bon Appetit recipe.   I really only ever change them up if I am certain of the ingredients. Today, I found this recipe for roast chicken breasts with garbanzo beans, tomatoes, and paprika and thought, “I could totally make that”.  However, that’s not a meal in itself, so I added spinach and rice pilaf.  A set of recipes follows; I’m just going to say this — the yogurt sauce is amazing. I’m not usually one to expound the virtues of something like yogurt sauce… but this one’s worth it.

Roast Chicken Breasts with Garbanzo Beans, Tomatoes, Spinach and Rice Pilaf

Time: took me about an hour and a half to do everything, mostly because it was a new recipe.
Serves: 4 people, at least once, with possible leftovers for lunch

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, pressed
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
6 oz plain Greek yogurt (like 1 container of 2% fat Chobani)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 4-6 pieces of even thickness
1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
1 12-ounce container cherry tomatoes
1 handful chopped fresh parsley, divided
2 medium carrots, sliced
1/2 lemon

2 large bunches of fresh spinach, rinsed well
4 garlic cloves, chopped and divided
1/2 cup of white wine, divided

Trader Joe’s Orzo & Rice Pilaf (cooked as per directions, omitting the seasoning, just add salt)

Preheat oven to 450°. Mix first 4 ingredients in medium bowl. Whisk 1 teaspoon spiced oil mixture into yogurt. Place chicken on large rimmed baking sheet. Rub 3 teaspoons spiced oil mixture over chicken. In a large bowl, mix beans, tomatoes, carrots and half the  parsley with most of remaining spiced oil mixture (I eyeballed it and had a little left over). Pour bean mixture around chicken. Sprinkle everything generously with salt and pepper, squeeze some lemon juice on top.  Roast covered about 20 minutes, then uncovered about 20 mins.  Sprinkle with 1/2 cup cilantro. Transfer chicken to plates. Spoon bean mixture over. Serve with yogurt sauce.

Meanwhile, saute 2 cloves of garlic in 1/4 cup of white wine for 2 mins, then add 1 bunch of clean spinach, and cook on low heat, covered, until it wilts. Add salt and pepper to taste. Repeat with the second bunch.  Yes, this is what you get from two bunches when it’s all wilted. Not much at all… but full of healthy good-for-you-ness!

Arrange delightfully on a plate and enjoy!

Whole Grain Green Apple & Yogurt Muffins

I modified this recipe from this Pinch My Salt recipe, which is awesome but sadly sour cream is just not in the cards for me.  I will also confess that my pictures aren’t nearly as pretty because my camera battery died and I had to do these with my phone. The muffins came out super-tasty and crumbly, so I am pleased to share the recipe with everyone.  It still warrants some fidgeting, perhaps with chocolate chips, but that would certainly put them squarely into the “dessert” — not that I’m against that.

Greek yogurt, by the way, is a fantastic substitute for sour cream if you ever need one.  It also has the benefit of coming in 2% and 0% fat options, or at least Chobani does.  And while there isn’t any in this recipe, apple sauce is a long-standing substitute for butter in a lot of baking.

Whole Grain Green Apple & Yogurt Muffins:

Set 1:
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup oat bran
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Set 2:
8 oz 2% fat Greek yogurt (I like Chobani), at room temp.
1/3 cup grape seed oil (or canola)
2 eggs
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Set 3:
1 granny smith apple, peeled and diced
1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds – your choice)

cinnamon and sugar mixture (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 12 cup muffin tin with cupcake liners.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together Set 1 ingredients: flour, oat bran, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

3. In a separate bowl, beat together Set 2 ingredients: Greek yogurt, oil, eggs, brown sugar and vanilla.

4. Gradually add Set 2 (dry) into Set 1 (wet) and stir until combined. Fold in Set 3: apples and nuts (if using).

5. Divide batter between the twelve muffin cups. Sprinkle tops of muffins with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar if desired.

6. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

You will now eat ALL THE TIME

Remember how it used to be “three square meals a day”?  That’s nice, but it ain’t gonna cut it. You, oh gallbladder-less one, have now joined the ranks of the grazers.  You will eat several, 5 or 6, mini-meals throughout the day, so that the bile your liver produces gets used up and doesn’t cause you agita (agita caused by your job, mother-in-law, or people who don’t walk fast enough when you’re running late is a different story).

Sample day menu:

Breakfast, 7am – cup of coffee, low-fat whole-wheat waffles with chocolate cheese spread (yes, chocolate in the morning)

Breakfast 2, 11am – 1% fat honey-flavored Greek yogurt, cup of tea

Lunch, 12.30pm – iced tea, grilled chicken salad dressed with bit of salt and olive oil (no vinegar!)

Snack, 3pm – granola bar or string cheese, cup of coffee

Dinner, 6pm – baked tilapia filet, mashed potatoes, salad, followed by cup of tea and 1 piece of dark chocolate

Snack again, 9pm – fruit of choice (apple, watermelon, cherries, etc.)

Extra fun bonus — your coworkers will start bitching, “How do you eat all the time and never gain weight?”  Unless truly pushed, try to resist responding with, “Well, I don’t eat Oreos and Cheetos swilled down by Coca-Cola, do I?”

Joe’s Shanghai

(image from Joe’s Shanghai)

Joe’s Shanghai in New York City is a popular lunch spot with white collar workers and out-of-towners, but don’t be fooled by the lack of locals. It’s worth the fifteen minute wait to get inside. In an area focused on cooking from Canton (the sweet and sour sensibility that gave you well, sweet and sour pork), this Shanghai-ese nonconformist boasts what few in the neighborhood can: really good xiao long bao, or the veritable soup dumpling (technically, bun) that’s tricky to eat, but so good going down.

Joe’s serves two types – pork vs. pork with a crab garnish. There’s barely a difference between the two (the crab tastes a bit more fishy), but at low prices at eight steamed dumplings per order, it’s less than wallet-breaking to go with both instead of just the former. The skins are thick, and the pork and soup contained within are non-greasy and very tasty. However, bite carefully, or the broth will dribble down your chin instead of your throat. The bright side? You’ll be so focused on your task that the noisy communal tables, brusque wait staff, and plain décor won’t even register.

Joe’s Shanghai
9 Pell Street
New York, NY 10013
(212)233-8888 (Multiple Locations)

Pork Steamed Buns $4.95
Crab Meat with Pork Steamed Buns $6.95

Writer’s Tip: Make sure to order water. The tea that’s automatically served to patrons is strong to even many habitual drinkers. Read more of this post