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.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Steamed Kobocha Squash with Jaggery Goor (Gur)

Although the cooking method this recipe utilizes works well with almost any squash variety, the sweet and spicy flavor profile compliments kobocha, acorn, carnival and butternut really well. Jaggery Goor (Gur) is unrefined palm sugar, and it has a strong molasses like flavor. I buy mine at Indian stores but it can be ordered online as well. Don't be afraid if it has a gooey texture, that just means it's probably a little fresher than the dry stuff. In fact, I seek out the wetter packages because their easier to work with. So on with the recipe:

Pre-heat your oven to 425F. Wash the outside of the squash off, cut it in half (vertically), and scoop the seeds out. Sprinkle salt and cinnamon on the inside halves. Fill a baking pan with water until it reaches 3/4" in height. Place the squash center side (flat side) down into the water. Bake for 30-50 minutes depending on the size of your cucurbita.The flesh will be soft and easy to scoop. Take a small spoonful of jaggery goor and place it along with a little butter into the bowl-like center of the squash. Let the sugar melt in the hot squash. Mmmm...I like to enjoy mine right out of the shell.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Say what? That's not honey, honey

I just read the most disturbing but not completely unexpected article on Eatocracy regarding store bought honey. As it turns out most of the honeys (not the good looking type, I'm talking about the stuff bees make) sold in stores isn't even honey. Here is an excerpt from the article:

"No pollen was found in 76 percent of samples from grocery stores including TOP Food, Safeway, Giant Eagle, QFC, Kroger, Metro Market, Harris Teeter, A&P, Stop & Shop and King Soopers" and "No pollen was found in 100 percent of samples from drugstores including Walgreens, Rite-Aid and CVS Pharmacy."

Even more disturbing:

"An earlier Food Safety News investigation found that at least a third of all the honey consumed in the United States was likely smuggled from China and could be tainted with illegal antibiotics and heavy metals. Foreign honey also puts a squeeze on American beekeepers, who have been lobbying for years for an enforceable national standard to prevent foreign honey from flooding the market."

Click here to read the full article, and gimme some sugar friends...buy some honey from your local farmer sans the antibiotics and heavy metal...barf.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

You are invited!

Next Wed., Nov. 2nd at the Experimental Station in Hyde Park, Chef Dana Cox founder of the Honest Meal Project is hosting a farm-to-table dinner soiree.  Nosh with other locavores on appetizers and a 3-course farm-to-table meal with Midwestern wines. Entertainment includes poetry and art inspired by the season!! It's all about celebrating fall and the FARMER :-)

To learn more about the Honest Meal Project click here .

Here's the link for tickets:

Thursday, October 27, 2011

It's Raining Vitamin A!

Can you guess what processed food this nutrition label belongs to?

Yes, the sodium level is redic but look at the vitamin and mineral percentages! As it turns out, this is the label to a package of Braunschweiger. Braunschweiger is a type of German liverwurst made from pork livers (and a few other things). Technically a sausage, liverwurst is sometimes sliced and eaten on sandwiches or mixed with cream cheese and seasonings and served like Pâté . Liver and other offal have been touted as some of the most nutrient dense sources of Vitamin A on the planet! Unfortunately, a lot of people are grossed out by organ meat...including myself. Braunschweiger on the other hand is delicious, I mean we fight over it at Mom's Christmas Eve buffet delicious. This year I am going to attempt to make it from scratch (minus a large amount of the sodium). In the mean time, if you have a recipe worth sharing please post it in the comments.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Food for thought...French Farmer's Markets

For those of you not in the know, I've been overseas in India and France for the last five months performing a culinary internship. I seized the opportunity to visit local farmer's markets, and food stands along the way. The restaurant I worked for hand purchased produce and other goods several days a week from the market. The quality of ingredients used in preparing our cuisine was phenomenal. We purchase items in season at their peak ripeness. If one of our usual fruits or vegetables didn't look good on a particular day, we didn't buy it. This is the norm for many of the upscale restaurants in l’Hexagone.

The majority of people that live in these areas also purchased from these markets. Not only could one buy produce, but cured meats, cheeses, eggs, meat, fish, jams, bake goods, and many other artisan products were also abundantly available. I can appreciate that here in Chicago, our local farmers markets carry many of these same products. However, what I find is that many of us do not buy exclusively from these local purveyors.

It is my belief that as the demand for goods at the market increases, the long forgotten culture of buying local will be restored. Along with the demand, more variety will blossom. Why should the Europeans reap all of the benefits of primo produce and to die for cheese and charcuterie? It's SO not fair.

Therefore, I would like to propose a challenge. Create your usual grocery list. For one month, one year, or for the rest of your life, make the farmers market the first stop for all of your grocery needs. Buy everything available on your list. Whatever is remaining, purchase at the grocery store of your choice. Imagine the possibilities! 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

So that's what cows eat.

Can you imagine how delicious the milk and meat from these French countryside cows must be? They leisurely graze in these green pastures from sun up to sun down. Their food comes from a hillside surrounding their home... not from a bag filled with hormone, and antibiotic soaked feed. One can see in the softness of their coats to their healthy pink noses and robust, proportionate bodies that these cows live the good life. You are what you eat right?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Not so fast pizza delivery man

Click on the link above to read how pizza is taking over the world. Don't get me wrong, I love me some za but pizza is not a staple! It's for rainy, busy days when Mom & Dad don't feel like cooking, or on Fridays with the babysitter and a DVD. Oh and slumber parties, don't forget slumber parties. The article states that fresh food is too expensive therefore, people are purchasing pizza and pasta instead. I'm not buying it, I think it's the western diets' pernicious spread across the globe. Really, how much are some dried beans, rice, a little yogurt and some veggies? A small garden with zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, and a few other things would offer ample bounty in a summer....tomatoes from the garden mmm yum, priceless. Man up and cook something.  

Sunday, May 1, 2011


and I don't mean this Mango.

I mean this mango.
As it turns out, not all mango's are created equally. The Alphonso mango, affectionately called "Alphonso's, Aphoos, or Hapoos" by Bombay and Goan natives is a yearly celebrated event. So prized (and expensive) are these succulent, perfumed fruits that locals have been known to go to great lengths like this

Crawford Market
to obtain the very best from their favorite purveyors year after year. The God's were smiling upon me one day during my brief trip to Crawford Market by putting me in the right place, at the right time. I gorged on what was undoubtedly the best piece of fruit that has ever graced my lips.

Do you dare eat at the dhaba?

I did, I dared. In route from the amazing city of Bombay (a.k.a. Mumbai) to the holy city of Nashik, I had the opportunity to taste the "real" India. Dhabas are roadside restaurants/truck stops. Perched upon a traditional chaarpai, I was treated to rustic Punjabi paneer tikka masala, traditional fire roasted, super spicy dal, and roti prepared like naan in a tandoor oven. Check out the crude tandoor ovens below:

Talk about a hot kitchen!


Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sahakari Spice Farms, Goa India

Vanilla Plant
OMG this place is SO up my alley. Sahakari Spice Farms is located in Goa, India. The farm is a place that tourists can visit to learn about the different varieties of spices and their medicinal value. Visitors are given both theoretical as well as practical information about the different uses of spices both in normal diet as well as in the treatment of common diseases.

Macadamia Nuts
The land that the farm sits on has been developed using modern techniques in conjunction with the age-old concepts of mixed crop farming like the use of sprinklers for irrigation. These methods coupled with older water harvesting methods help in water conservation. Additionally, the grounds of the plantation are covered with Cashewnut trees, economically profitable fruit bearing trees and plants, spices, and medicinal herbs. Planting trees help prevent the erosion of the land and is also used a method of generating green foliage used in preparing compost. For their efforts, the Sahakari Spice Farm was nominated for the prestigious Annual DRV International Environmental award in 2005.

Later this month I will be traveling to Mumbai to research South Indian diet and cuisine. I will be sure to make a stop here and report back. I am very excited to see the spices in their vegetative state, and hope to discover some "new to me" produce. Check back around the beginning of May for photos.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

It's almost time...mmm asparagus

"Asparagus group from Miss Gatchell's pageant. Lee Co." Date: April 16, 1925.
Apparently, I'm not the only one excited about the upcoming asparagus season. Up until now I mistakenly thought that asparagus queens and parades were a "Michigan thing". All over the US from Alabama to California, and internationally in Europe, people celebrate one of the first vegetables to kick off spring.

My fork is anxiously awaiting in anticipation of this tender, herbaceous perennial. I usually like to keep the preparation simple by blanching or steaming the spears and rolling them around in butter. When I'm feeling all fancy-pants I may grill or saute them, wrap them in prosciutto, and drizzle them with a thick reduced balsamic vinaigrette topped with a little shaved Parmesan. Come to think of it, drowning the spears French style with a delectable Hollandaise sauce is pretty wicked good too.

Mill your own flour

Have you ever considered milling your own flour? It has recently come to my attention that many commercially produced whole wheat flours are so heavily processed that they loose much of their nutrient density. In many cases when wheat is ground, the bran and the germ are separated from the endosperm. After further processing (and heating), the bran is reintroduced. The kernel is manipulated so heavily that the final product tends to be unrecognizable from it's original state. Interestingly enough, the manipulation of grain doesn't stop with just flour. Click here for a list of other commonly bastardized wheat products.  

The scarcity of stone ground, low temperature milling has moved me to consider grinding my own whole wheat. Here are several different home Flour Millls I found on Amazon.com. I can't wait to try making my own pasta wheat!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Fresh Whole Wheat Pasta Dough

1 1/2 cups finely ground whole wheat flour
1 egg
dash of salt

Mix the flour and salt together than shape it into a mound on your counter top. Make well in the center, drop in the egg, and stir with a fork in a circular motion. The edges of the egg will grab and incorporate the flour gradually. Once combined, knead the dough for at least 5 minutes and shape it into a ball. Cover the ball with plastic or a damp towel, and let it rest for at least 15 minutes.

Run the dough through a pasta machine or roll out and cut. This dough is also great for my personal favorite...ravioli!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Miracle worker in the school cafeteria

Click here to read about miracle worker Paul Boundas. Paul found way to make healthy, delicious, cheap food that school kids love! If there was a purple heart award for nutritional hero's, he would have surely earned it!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Livestock and Antibiotics

Rest Assured, someone is finally doing something about this.

Speaking of this...Did you know that the FDA estimates US livestock get 29 million pounds of non-therapeutic antibiotics per year! Not a very appetizing number is it. This devastating statistic accounts for over 70% of all antibiotics used in the U.S. (Union of Concerned Scientists, 2011).  Congress woman Louise Slaughter (no pun intended) of NY is reintroducing H.R. 965 the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act. Her legislation would limit the use of seven classes of antibiotics currently used to treat animals, most of which are already healthy, and preserve their use for humans. 

What said reputable farmer might look like
If you wish to show your support call your member of Congress at (202) 224-3121 and encourage them to support H.R. 965 and don't forget...sometimes actions speak louder than words. Send a message by doing your own part to combat antibiotic tainted food. Buy your meat from a local, reputable farmer. 



Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Food for thought: What's up with antioxidants anyway?

        We all know that many foods like vegetables, fruits, grain cereals, eggs, meat, legumes and nuts contain antioxidants. We've been told to consume as many antioxidants as we can because of their ability to tame scary free radicals.  Free radicals contribute to cell damage, which in turn, can lead to cancer.  
            Over 200 studies have been conducted and show overwhelming evidence that people who eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables benefit from a lower risk of cancer. (Block G, Patterson B, Subar A., 1992) However, it is not clear that the antioxidants in the fruits and vegetables alone are responsible for staving off cancer. Furthermore, there is not enough conclusive evidence that antioxidant supplements are as effective as a diet rich in fruits and vegetables at preventing cancer. This leads one to believe there’s more to the story of fruits and vegetables cancer hindering abilities than merely their antioxidants.
            One of the major misconceptions regarding antioxidants and free radicals is that all antioxidants are good, and the latter bad. Many pharmaceutical companies have marketed vitamins containing antioxidants as cancer preventatives. This major marketing campaign coupled with the fear of cancer, has led laymen reason to believe that ingesting lots of antioxidants will rid our bodies of harmful free radicals and therefore reduce our risk of cancer. In actuality, not all antioxidants are good, and not all free radicals are harmful. Antioxidants regulate the amount of free radicals in the body, through a careful balancing act. (Halliwell, Barry, 2006).          


To learn more about antioxidants and free radicals click here.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Food for throught: Genetically Modified Foods

Affectionately referred to as Frankenstein food, genetically modified produce is a topic of much debate. Supporters cite the benefits of genetically resistant foods as an answer to harmful pesticide use and ultimately higher crop yields. Unfortunately, GMO's are effectively proving to be just as dangerous a threat as pesticides for our bodies and ecosystem. Many scientists consider GM crops partially responsible for the disappearance of honey bees. Others are finding that foods with built in insect resistance could lead to human resistance to some types of antibiotics. Scary stuff.

Personally, I haven't found a tasty GM tomato to date. Ditto for strawberries, raspberries, peaches, or oranges. Additionally, pesticide pears are equally as unappetizing to my palate. As we march forward towards inevitable extinction, one may ask what can I do to survive? Buy local, know your farmers, and grow your own tomatoes. Trade some tomatoes for your neighbors cucumbers, maybe the guy down the street has some strawberries. Free yourself from grocery store dependence, buy those little ugly bumpy apples and dirty beets from the farmer's market...savor the flavor of real food.

P.S. If you have any bees that are bugging you, find your local honey-bee rescue source. Bees are our friends, not our enemies honey.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Gadget of the Week- Chroma Utility Knife

This is one smooth ride. Check out the lines on this Chroma Type 301 Designed By F.A. Porsche. I can attest to this 5 inch utility knife's greatness. If you feel like taking it for a test drive, click here. 

End the War...because it's so annoying

Meat Eaters vs. Vegetarians
All proteins are not created equal. Animal proteins are complete proteins, as they contain all of the essential amino acids the human body needs. Vegetable proteins are not complete. This does not mean than a vegetarian diet is insufficient, it merely means that vegetarians need to eat more than one plant source to obtain all essential amino acids. “Complementary proteins are two or more incomplete protein sources that together provide adequate amounts of all the essential amino acids”.(1) This can be accomplished by consuming legumes with grains, such as beans and rice, pea soup with whole grain bread, roti’s with dal, tortillas with refried beans, or simply a peanut butter sandwich made with whole grain bread.

We are omnivores...peace.

(1) Center of Disease Control and Prevention, Protein. http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/protein.html

Take Care of Your Cooking Fat

Does this sight look familiar to you? This is what happens when your oil gets too hot and burns in the frying pan. Unfortunately, the bitterness does not end there. When oils are heated to or beyond their smoke point, they become oxidized. Oxidation creates free radicals (potential cancer causing molecules). Saturated fats have high smoke points, therefor they should be used when cooking hot food. Polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated fats are less stable and reach their smoke points at lower temperatures. 

The moral of the story, don't use olive oil for everything. Use appropriate oils for appropriate cooking methods. Saturated fats like clarified butter, ghee, lard and coconut oil are great for high temperature cooking.

Oils may also experience increased oxidation from sitting out exposed on your counter top. To reduce rancidity, refrigerate your polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated fats or keep air & light out. This means putting your sealed olive oil in the refrigerator or cupboard.

To learn more on oxidation and free radicals read here and here.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Crop to Cup Coffee

I'm sure you've probably heard about the ugly stuff going on in the coffee trade. If you haven't, trust me it's not pretty.  I'm not going to regurgitate the horrors of the coffee industry here today, but if you are so inclined on educating yourself on the heartbreaking stories of slavery click here or here. FYI, unfortunately these inhumane, unethical practices don't stop with coffee, chocolate and banana industries have similar sad stories.

Now onto brighter pastures. I picked up some Crop to Cup Coffee from the Green Grocer. Crop to Cup is... (drum roll) *hint new buzz word* TRACEABLE. What a concept, knowing where your food comes from, who grows it and how. 

This morning the E. African French Roast was the talk of the house, this cup of Jo's flavor is divine. Coming from a condo full of coffee snobs, connoisseurs, and junkies this is akin to being nominated for an academy award.
Up for best traceable coffee...Sam Kauka Family Farms:


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Missing from the great food debate: Sustainablility

Here is an excellent blog post from the Dean of my school Christopher Koetke. Chef Koetke shares his experience with global sustainability and why it matters.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

What is this Stuff? Celery Root

Don't be afraid...remember when your mother told you not to judge a book by it's cover? This knobby root is also known as celeriac. Long loved by the French, this tuber packs a flavor punch not unlike celery. It's wonderful in hot soup, cold soup, purees, salads, casseroles, or just plain roasted. Simply cut off the rough outer skin, and go from there.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Food for thought- A Vegetarian Food Pyramid

Warning: I'm going to rant n' rave a little bit here. Click the link to read the article.

Food pyramid: USDA sued by doctors' group that wants vegetarian alternative - chicagotribune.com

Crimany! Healthy eating is not that difficult. The key to a long and healthy life can be found in your local nursing home. Ask the 100 club what they ate growing up. I guarantee you their diets included a lot of seasonal fruits and vegetables, whole wheat bread, whole milk, butter, beans and various body parts of animals in moderation. Soda was a special treat...not a staple.   

Humans have been eating meat FOREVER. What's not been around forever? Gluttony, processed foods, obesity, and diabetes.

Ok I'm done. I'm going to take the rest of my frustration out on a crunchy bag of Cool Ranch Doritos...*wink, wink