I am not a dietitian, I am a Research and Development Chef with a Nutritional Concentration. This site is based on opinions I've formed through my research and experience working for manufactured food processors.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Roman Cauliflower

Well good morning gorgeous! This is one fab fractal! I just discovered Roman cauliflower (a.k.a. Romanesco broccoli) the other day while shopping at one of my favorite haunts, The Green Grocer. I think this guy should be counted as the 7th wonder of the world. Forget Grand Canyon, this logarithmic spiral is waaaaay cooler. Quickly blanch it and serve with pasta, raw as a crudité, or as my personal favorite...steamed and smothered in a cheesy mornay sauce.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The high price we pay for cheap food

 It's spreading across the pond...the "It" being awareness.

Produce Shares

Have you considered joining a produce share program? Have you been wondering what a CSA Box is? They really are the modern American version of agriculturally innovative, communal living. It's almost as if we've gone full circle...although I'm not contributing anything but dough.

I joined one recently, and although I can't subside on just the produce in the share, I do feel it is a step in the right direction. Not only do I eat foods I might not normally purchase (hello variety), I force myself to use the produce before the following weeks harvest!  Click here to find a share in your area.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Cheesy Potato Chickpea Soup

2 TBSP butter
1/8th cup prosciutto, pork belly or bacon
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
4 potatoes
1 1/2 cups pre-soaked chickpeas (a.k.a. garbanzo beans)
1-2 quarts chicken stock (just enough to cover the potatoes
3/4th cup shredded cheese (I used cheddar) 
2 cups heavy cream
salt TT
pepper TT 

Saute the pork in the butter until crisp. Sweat the onions, add the potatoes, chick peas and stock (remember just enough to cover the potatoes). Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a low simmer. When potatoes are soft, puree the mixture in a blender. Pour back into the pot and add the cheese. Once cheese is melted add the heavy cream and reheat until hot.

This soup is so warm and comforting, you might even forget it's winter outside!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Kale Chips

Usually, I'm extremely wary of non-potato or non-corn tortilla chips but kale chips deliver a new, nutritional, and full flavored chip option. I overheard someone at the market last summer talking about how great they were and because I struggle to incorporate green leafy vegetables in my diet, I had been seriously thinking about cooking some up. It just so happens that last week in my Green Grocer produce share bag, the dark green velvety leaf arrived at my front door. I simply brushed them with olive oil, sprinkled them with sea salt and baked them for less than 10 minutes in the oven. Surprisingly, I really enjoyed these crispy, savory greens!

*Keep a close eye on these guys, they  turn to burnt dust very quickly if left in the oven for too long!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Organic Pasture Raised Turkey

This year I shelled out the big bucks for an organic pasture raised turkey from Meadow Haven Farms. This was one magnificent, flavorful, juicy bird.  A surprisingly eyeopening characteristic for me, was how proportionate this birds body was. It's wings and legs were huge and plump, quite different from the grocery store turkeys I've had at past Thanksgiving dinners. Not only was this years turkey extremely tasty, the gravy made from the pan drippings was to-die-for!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Taste Nirvana Coco Aloe

I visited my favorite haunt today. How I love thee...my beloved French Market.

One of the many new treats I happened upon, at the Saigon Sisters kiosk are these three delicious bevy's: Taste Nirvana Coconut Water with pulp, without pulp and with aloe

The Coco Aloe flavor I found particularly lovely.

Finally a coconut water without added sugar, hooray! Finding a coconut drink with pulp, that does not contain added sugar upon it's label, has proved to be quite elusive in this part of the country. A staple in countries like Mexico, India, and Thailand it's perfectly delicious in it's natural state. Coconut water is also considered an isotonic drink, (think Gatorade processed and packaged by Mother Earth). A trip up to Devon Avenue in the summer yields street-side vendors, swinging machetes to lop the tops off of Thai coconuts.

A Happy Coconut Drinking Tourist

Chef Tips- Chef Carl Duchaj

Thank you Chef Duchaj!

Q. Have you ever walked away from your sauteed onions for too long?

A. Reconstitute them with a little water (F.Y.I. this doesn't work if they are overly charred, nothing can save that bitter disaster)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Main Course had an Unhappy Face...

Emily Bent with the New York Times wrote an extremely moving article regarding bridging the gap between us and our food sources. To read this story click here:

Monday, November 22, 2010

Cream of Anything Soup

2 TBSP butter
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 stalk of celery, roughly chopped
8 cups almost any veggie, I like broccoli
3 cups chicken or veggie stock
2 TBSP parsley, minced
2 cup cream
salt & pepper TT

Sweat the onion and celery in the butter, add the broccoli and then add the stock (stock level should be below the broccoli mixture in the pot to avoid a thin soup). Bring to a boil, reduce to medium heat and cook until broccoli is tender. Puree ingredients with the parsley (makes it greener looking) in a blender, add the cream (a little at a time to avoid a thin soup), and pour back into the pot. Season, reheat, serve.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Chicken Stock

Chicken stock is a staple in my kitchen. I use it in many recipes including soups, rice, beans and sauces to name a few. Not only does the stock fortify my recipes with oodles of flavor, it also adds nutrient density. I tend to get a little over zealous in my produce purchasing at times and before I know it, I have a fridge full of veggies that are on the way out. When the time is right, I pull out a batch chicken bones previously stashed in the freezer to make stock. If I am boneless, I make vegetable stock (super handy to have around for your vegetarian friends).  The stock can then be frozen, and used when needed. *Tip, store stock in 2 cup portions for easy use.

The base for most stocks calls for a mirepoix, an aromatic combination consisting of 50% onions, 25% carrots and 25% celery. Coined by the French, mirepoix is considered "The holy trinity" in several other countries as well. Feel free to add additional veggies like fennel, leeks, beets, garlic and whichever herbs du jour that you fancy. Here is a simple recipe to start with:

Mirepoix (1/8 of the amount per 2lbs. of bones)
Chicken bones
Fresh Thyme, parsley and a bay leaf or two
No salt or pepper...I repeat loudly "NO SALT OR PEPPER" *You never know what you might use your stock for in the future, it could be reduced for a sauce of some sort.


Sweat the veggies and bones in a stock pot.  Fill with water just until the bones are covered. Add your herbs, bring to a boil and immeditly reduce to a low simmer. Cook for at least 1 1/2 hours. Do not stir,  stirring creates a cloudy stock. When done, remove the stock ladle by ladle and pass through a chinois, china cap,or cheese cloth to remove impurities. Pitch the fiber (what's left from the veggies) or throw it into your compost pile.

Cool in an ice bath and freeze for future use.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Chef Tips- Chef Mom

Question: What should you do when your pot spillieth over??? 

Answer: Blow on it, and then turn it down.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Food for thought- The French Paradox?

In the 90's Dr. Serge Renaud coined the phrase "The French Paradox" after extensive observation showing that Parisians suffer a relatively low incidence of coronary heart disease, despite having a diet relatively rich in saturated fats. A phenomenon he hypothesized was due to Parisian's red wine consumption. Sales of Red wine blew up in the US, indicating Americans whole heatedly swallowed this miracle pill. Watch the video below showing the 60 minutes airing of this study.

Click here to watch the video.

Chew on this: Do you think that this conundrum could be related to the unprocessed cuisine Parisians consume, rather than the result of their wine consumption? Seriously folks, the French eat 4 times the amount of butter, 60% more cheese and 3 times as much pork. At the time of the video above, Americans were regularly substituting butter with margarine, and cooking everything in heavily processed non-animal fat oils. When was the last time your Mom rendered her own pork fat? I have a sneaking suspicion there is more to the French Paradox than meets the eye.  

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Ben Mahmoud Gallery Event

Sometimes, the most beneficial nutrient one can consume presents itself in the form of giving. Last night I met some fantastic people while volunteering at the Ben Mahmoud Memorial Retrospective and Auction event put on by the Chicago ALS Association, and the Mahmoud family. Ben was an amazing artist and professor who sadly suffered and eventually succumb to ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). The proceeds from this event were donated to the Greater Chicago Chapter's investment in research while fighting ALS.

Artist Ben Mahmoud

In addition to the Mahmoud family's donation, guests enjoyed tastings from some of Chicago's top local chefs. Kendall College students assisted Chef James Gottwald, Rockit Bar and Grill, Chef Randal Jacobs, Elate, Chef Chan Le, Le Colonial and Chef Mark Sparacino, Ristorante Prosecco.    
Special thanks to Chef Sparacino for organizing the Chef-Off, and Julie A. Coney, the gallery event coordinator from The Faux Wife.   

Dwight and I enjoyed a delightful evening schmoozing and serving 
Bo Bia (Vietnamese summer rolls) from Le Colonial.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sweet Apple Pannekoken

Pannekoken (also spelled pannekoeken) is a German oven pancake.  It's much eggier than the American version. In fact, the only thing these cakes have in common, is that they are both named pancakes and are considered breakfast items- most of the time. I say most of the time because I was introduced to these wondrous poofy delicacies via a 24-hour diner at 2:00am after a long and eventful night of discoing. My dear friend Ben enthusiastically indulged in pannekoken; he enjoyed them so thoroughly, that after said discoing, he would offer to pick up the cab fare for the long hike up to the north side just to get us to agree to go!

I soon learned how to cook oven cakes for the gang. Fondly and frequently, I baked them for the "3 musketeers" (Ben, Melissa and I). We enjoyed pannekoken and pork sausage on fuzzy weekend mornings in my studio apartment.  Ben and Mel poured over the Sunday crossword puzzle... those were the days...tug, tug.

Although fruit is not necessary, it's nice to mix things up and add seasonal flair to this dish. The recipe below includes apples.

8 TBSP butter
1.5 cups milk
1.5  cups whole wheat pastry flour
cinnamon TT
sugar TT

Preheat oven and skillet to 400 degrees (a glass pie pan works too).
Combine flour, milk and eggs together (don't over mix). Add the butter to the hot skillet (in the oven) and melt. After the butter is melted, remove the skillet from oven and tilt the pan making sure to grease the edges. Arrange apple slices on the bottom and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mix. Bake at 400 degrees for 30-45 minutes. The pannekoken will puff up in the oven, you'll get all excited, and then it will deflate rapidly upon serving. Garnish with freshly squeezed lemon juice and powdered sugar.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I learned something new today...

Did you know that after harvest, winter squash are allowed to harden (a.k.a. cure) for about 2 weeks? 

Gadget of the Week- Silpat baking sheet

With the holidays coming up, this product is sure to become your new best friend. I use it mainly when baking loads of holiday cookies.  It's nice to slide the mat off of the hot cookie sheet to free up the pan. Even better, it aides in removing the cookies unscathed. Another super cool way to utilize this gadget, is to roll out pie crusts. Simply roll out the dough on the mat, flip it over onto the pie plate and voila, easiness!

Click here to find it online.

Monday, November 8, 2010

What is this Stuff? Purple and Yellow Cauliflower

The other day while strolling the French Market, this fetching purple cauliflower stopped me dead in my tracks. At first glance I thought it must be genetically modified to produce such a vibrant color. After researching the subject, I found out the purple color is caused by the presence an  antioxidant group which can also be found in red cabbage and red wine.  Na'hice! 

Now here's where it gets interesting. Next to the purple bunch, I found the yellowish orange variety and listen to this. Per Wiki, "Orange cauliflower (B. oleracea L. var. botrytis) contains 25 times the level of Vitamin A of white varieties. This trait came from a natural mutant found in a cauliflower field in Canada. Cultivars include 'Cheddar' and 'Orange Bouquet'".

Today I made a promise to myself, I will no longer shun funny colored produce prior to researching the means of its cultivation. Hooray for variety!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Easy-Peasy Spiced Apples

So lets just say (hypothetically), that you bought a ton of fresh apples from your local farmer because you were so excited about baking a pie and guess what...you were too lazy to make it (I don't know anyone who would do that). Here is an extremely fast and easy method of enjoying the fruit without the labor.  


as many apples as you want
some butter
some unrefined dark sugar
maybe some raisins, nuts, orange peel or dried cranberries
definitely some cinnamon 
1 TBSP water

Core the apple (don't cut completely through the bottom or the juices will spill out), add the ingredients, and bake in the oven for 10-20 minutes (It depends on what type of apple you are using). Let stand for at least 5 minutes and maybe even 10, these suckers are hot, and retain heat very well.  

Serve them with some gelato if you feel like it, and forget about cleaning up pie crust mess ( : 
Psst, don't tell anyone I told you this.  But it is possible to nuke the apples as well. But you ain't heard if from me oww kayyy wink, wink...keep it in the family if you know what I mean.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Food for thought- Is your morning cup of jo grown by happy farmers?


I learned some disturbing information regarding the coffee, beer and chocolate trades yesterday in one of my classes. Did you know that slaves obtained through human trafficking are used to grow some of these products? Find out where your beans come from by using this interactive map provided by Peace Coffee.  

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Thanksgiving Turkey

Oh my gosh, I forgot to remind you guys to order your Thanksgiving turkey from your local farmer! I'm getting mine through Meadow Haven Farm, and I'm planning on creating a wild and crazy tandoori turkey.

Here is a link that will lead you to local organic turkey farmers in your area.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What is this Stuff? Kohlrabi and Turnips

Kohlrabi (L), Turnips (R)

When I first saw this pretty purple stuff, I was stumped as to what it was. Turns out it's just a different variety of kohlrabi.  Kohlrabi is root vegetable that kind of tastes like cabbage. The beet looking guys on the right are turnips.  They too taste a lot like cabbage. I have some extra cabbage left over from my borsch recipe, and if I pick up some carrots from tomorrow's market, I'll have the makings for some pretty exciting coleslaw. Or maybe I'll freeze the rest of my borsch and make creamed kohlrabi and turnip soup! What do you guys think? Any good recipe ideas out there? By the way, I found these lovely roots at the King's Hill Farm booth.   

Monday, November 1, 2010

Baba's Borscht, Ukranian Style

My Ukrainian Great Grandmother (Baba) was a wonderful cook.  Tough as nails she was...and mean too. After her husband passed away, she and her children were forced to pick onions in the fields to earn enough money to survive. In fact, my Grandam Vera can't stand onions to this day. Eventually, Baba remarried and saved up enough money to buy a boarding house.  She would cook for her boarders, and also for my loud and lively family on Sundays.  Her borscht recipe has been passed down three generations and counting. It's definitely a paupers dish, and I'm pretty sure my ancestors considered themselves lucky to have a stew bone to throw into the pot.

I grew up eating this wonderful earthen beet soup, and considered it a "special" dish.  Sometimes I can  go years without making it. It's amazing how the aroma of borsch brings back memories of my Baba's home.  I fondly recall her pet love birds, playing with matryoshka, and curiously inspecting crocheted dolls, without legs, perched upon styrofoam cones. Oh yes, her den was full of curiosities.

One of my fondest memories, is when one Sunday Baba and "the adults" went out to the patio to drink loose tea (shots of Cognac) and read tea leaves. I stayed inside to play with her trinkets.  She had an old fashioned, unguarded fan perched upon her entertainment center. Given the fact that I was only five at the time, she obviously was concerned I might touch it.  "Don touch dat fan...dooonnn touch dat fan" she heeded.  Of course, the mere mention of not touching this all of a sudden insatiable contraption, put me in a trance. I found my chubby little index finger being powerlessly pulled with the force of a neodymium magnet, towards certain injury. Ouch, I screamed! Running and crying, I fled to my Baba for support...what I got was a hard slap on the face (literately), and "YOU BAD LITTLE GIRL! I told you don touch dat fan!".  All of a sudden, screaming and crying wasn't working out to my advantage.

One day I'll share her pierogi recipe with you as well. I'm so very lucky to have such sentimental memories and recipes to reflect upon throughout the years...snarkity, snark, snark. 

So here it is, in it's entirety.  As you can see, there is room for interpretation.  I threw in some fresh dill, juiced whole tomatoes and used dried Lima beans. It tasted exactly like hers.

(Click photo to expand)

I got my beets from the Leaning Shed Farm, cabbage from Green Acres Farm, fresh dill from Smits Farms and a beef stew bone from Meadow Haven. There's no place like home.   


Shout Out- Nature's Creation Farm

Nature's Creation Farm is is an organic farm in Washington (state) owned and operated by Chef Nicholas Pouch.  Nick strives to grow nutrient dense food by being dedicated to pure agriculture practices. Nature's Creation Farm is ‘beyond organic’ because not only do they meet and exceed certified organic standards, they are deeply committed to soil health and improving water quality. These considerations are not addressed in the USDA Certified Organic Standards that only describe what substances can and cannot be applied to crops. Additionally, the farm uses no Genetically Modified seed stock, absolutely no artificial chemicals. Only certified organic fertilizers are used.

Check out these wonderful recipes with Chef Nick's video instruction by clicking here.  I learned how to make squash crepes!  Yay! another squash recipe!   

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Shout Out- The Honest Meal Project

Dana has dedicated one year of her life to eating only local farm foodstuffs. This means no bananas, no strawberries in winter and most unfortunately, no black pepper. Ms. Cox is bravely attempting to raise awareness of the troubling aspects of US food practices,  and is using The Honest Meal Project as a forum to impact change. Hooray for this locavore warrior of the kitchen!  Check out her blog on Chicago Now by clicking here, and her personal chef business Old Stove Gourmet.    

BTW is that a book on cucumbers she's reading?  I hope she did some pickling or she gonin' be starving this winter in Chi-Town yo!

Gadget of the Week- The Corn Zipper

This gadget is great for stripping corn cobs of their precious kernels.  Fresh corn tastes exquisite and this tool allows me to replace canned corn in my recipes.  The Corn Zipper is also great for those of us who don't like eating corn off of the cob.  I am not a fan of corn stuck in my teeth, or butter and salt dripping down my face.  I used to use a knife but this gadget allows a closer shave. Find it online here.