To Market with Mo: just a spoonful of...
Thursday, April 29, 2010
If Mary Poppins were giving little Michael and Jane honey instead of sugar, why she might have been able to skip the 'medicine' part all together....and no it's not psychosomatic. That spoonful on honey does ease a sore throat. Honey is a wonder 'drug' on two fronts:
A) It's natural antiseptic properties, 'yeah, sore throat, take that', and a great topical salve (number one wound treatment during the civil war, how 'bout that tidbit?). For this purpose go for a darker honey, say a buckwheat honey. It packs more antioxidants than any other honey.
B) Homeopathically. If you are an allergy sufferer like myself, down local raw honey to build up your immune system. Your local bees aren't collecting nectar and pollen from hibiscus in Barbados, but from all those blooming things that got you sneezing in the first place. Local honey (especially a prairie or wildflower honey) hold bits of pollen from all these allergens. So, by consuming the honey, you start building an immunity to them. Yay you.
I could go on about the 'good for you' properties of honey, like all the antioxidants, minerals, enzymes, and vitamins it contains, but all that aside, it's the taste that is so intoxicating. And I am not talking your grocery-store, all the goodness cooked out of it variety, but real local honey that you can actually taste the blooms that it came from.
Speaking of the blooms. Did you know it takes 4.5 million flowers to make one pound of honey? And who does all the work? Bees. Seriously. These little creatures, who you might find annoying if they sting you, are probably the most important player in the sustainability story. Bees gather nectar from flowers, and in turn are pollinating plants. A full one third of the food we consume requires pollination. Did you know that when bees are around to pollinate, crop yields have been known to increase as much as 45%. Wow! Busy? Not the word for it. And with the bee population a quarter of what it was less than 50 years ago....well, instead of getting too down about this situation I say spin it positive--we can all do our part to help US beekeepers, and they in turn they will help the honey bee. How? By buying the byproduct of the bee's hard work: that raw local honey.
There are a number of sources for local honey and honey products. Two in the city itself (Chicago, to clarify for my out of town readers
): Chicago Honey Co-op
and Sweet Beginnings
(producer of the beeline
, line of honey products). Not only are both these producers working within the city limits in under-served neighborhoods, and increasing our bee population, but they are helping to provide jobs for those who might otherwise have a tough time finding employment.
A number of vendors sell honey at the farmers markets, but one of my favorite source is Bron's Bees Honey
(from Heritage Prairie Farm). Why? I truly believe the beekeeper, Browyn Weaver's passion for bees, and beekeeping, is reflected in the honey she produces. Wait. I need to back up. The honey that her well-cared for bees produce. And don't stop at trying the honey and honey comb, if you have the opportunity to try Bron's Honey cake? Do. Oh my heck, this cake is pure bliss. But if you can't wait another couple of weeks for Summer market season to get into full swing, there are online and local retailers that carry these locally produced honeys (refer to all the links above
All this talk of blooming and pollen has got me feeling a bit of spring fever. And if 'allergy girl' is going to sit out on the back porch, on an unseasonably warm MayDay evening, might as well combat the pollen blowing about with a 'medicinal' cocktail, right?
Bee's Knees (a speakeasy classic)
2 parts gin (Hendricks works nicely)
1 part honey simple syrup*
1 part fresh lemon juice
splash of Licor 43 (optional, but brings this cocktail to another level)
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, stir briefly to dissolve the honey syrup, then fill with ice. Shake well. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a slice of lemon, or really zip it up with a sprig of lavender.
*Honey simple syrup: combine equal parts of honey and water in a sauce pan. Heat until simmering and honey is dissolved. Store in the fridge.
See you at the markets!
p.s. any favorite ways to use honey? email me at email@example.com
Labels: beeline, Bron's Bees, Chicago Honey Co-op, Green City Market, seasonal organic produce, Sweet Beginnings
What does your gut tell you? "DietBytes by Sandy"
Everyone is shaped differently. Most of us are either the apple or pear-shaped. Apples gain weight around their middle and find it difficult to change their body composition. Pears accumulate the poundage around their thighs, butt, and hips, and may find it equally as difficult to slim down. Although both shapes share similar frustration, they don't face similar health risks.
Apples face much more serious health complications than pears. They're more likely to develop heart disease, diabetes, and breast cancer. This is due to the visceral fat (found deeper within the abdomen and surrounding abdominal organs) that can infiltrate your heart, kidneys, liver, and intestines. On top of that -- this type of abdominal fat isn't inactive -- it's actually producing hormones that can cause type 2 diabetes and other health risks!
Can we change our shape? Genetics determines much of our natural form, but with diet and exercise, we can make healthy modifications. On the other hand, certain unhealthy behaviors may influence our predisposition towards one shape or another.
Both smokers and heavy drinkers are more likely to be apple-shaped. This may be because booze prevents the breakdown of fat to some extent, especially around the belly. Studies found this to be more true with beer, rather than wine. And, unfortunately as we get older, we accumulate more and more belly fat. What can we do to prevent it?
1.) Eat healthy: Cut back on saturated (and trans) fats, limit the alcohol, increase mono- and polyunsaturated fats, and load up on whole foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean protein. Some studies have linked the Mediterranean diet with shrinkage of belly fat.
2.) Exercise most days of the week: both cardio and resistance training will help to dwindle your trunk.
3.) Quit smoking: Enough said!
To find out which shape you are, measure your hips at their widest point with a take measure. Next, measure your waist at your navel. Divide the waist number by the hip number. For men if that ratio is less than or equal to 1, you are a pear. If it's more than 1, you're an apple. For women, less than or equal to 0.8 is a pear, and more than 0.8 is an apple.
Sandy Sfikas, RD, LDN
"About Last Night..." Gia Finds the "Moment"
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Did you ever have a moment, just one moment where you thought you instantly fell in love? Where the world around you seemed to collapse and quiet and all you can here is the sound of his voice, and the brilliance of his smile? It happened here, at Gemini Bistro, in the heart of Lincoln Park, we were discussing my meatball recipe, of all things.
"So is it psshht psssht or psssssshhhhhht pssshhhhhht?" he asked to clarify as I described the amount of Worcestershire sauce I carefully poured into my meatball concoction. His eyes smiled at me, and his face lit up. You can't fake that, but you sure as hell can over analyze it.
So where was I? Oh right, Gemini Bistro. See, here's the thing about this sleek and inviting place...you can easily get lost in it. The dark wood, leather booths, and Edison style lighting (shown in pic - not just me having a brilliant thought!), make it very cozy and inviting, for just the perfect date to fall in love, or perhaps just discuss the egg to meat ratio in making the perfect meatball. Either way, this place is delightful. It's sexy, and the contemporary American cuisine is unique and offers a great variety of dishes.
With the potential of love on the brain, or perhaps a hankering for meatballs, I started with the soft shell crab appetizer (shown with my happy smiling face in the picture). Breaded and fried to absolute perfection it was tender, juicy and was mild and delicious. The Entrees included the Alaskan Halibut which was light, and fresh with braised celery, morel mushrooms, and fava beans. The Roasted Salmon was crispy on the outside and tender on the inside with savoy cabbage, and a tangy coriander vinaigrette.
Delish. Absolute Delish.
For desert we opted to share the Key Lime Pie. As our forks swirled, clanked, and met in the middle it was clear to me that Gemini Bistro would always have a special place in my heart.
Oh, I should mention two very unique drinks, and really, I just love the names of these drinks...the Heater, and the Squirtsky. I would like to have the job that gets to name drinks, and OPI nail polish. My color would be the coolest, deepest shade of red and I would call it the "Flame Thrower".
Ahhhh love....it's got me all off my game. Now what?
Until next week!
Gemini Bistro is located at 2075 North Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 773.525.2522
In these photos: Gia Claire, Professional Bloggess
Find me on Facebook, www.gametimedine.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Do You Macku? LP sushi beyond just sushi
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Sushi is deliciousness in my opinion. Clean eating, non-gluttonous, and perfect with a great non-filtered sake before going out. There are many sushi options in our fine town but few that take sushi to the next level. Macku artfully manages to balance savory and sweet flavors with intention in each bite that chef Macku Chan creates while teasing the eye and the taste buds with a beautiful presentation on each plate. Starting with a slightly soggy and unsalted Edamame, I was admittedly apprehensive about what lies ahead. My next course however was a beautifully poured aromatic white asparagus soup that definitely left me wanting for more. The hamachi was not just tossed on a plate, it was nicely placed on a flower of red beets and pureed microgreens-clean, flavorful, and delicious. The tuna tartare was to die for served up on the spicier side with avocado and I hope it becomes a permanent fixture on the menu, get it now while on special!
The mackarel had been depleted for the evening, bummer because I was there for a 7:00 seating, and the substitute recommendation of fly fish tasted gamey-not bad-just not what I expected to taste. The Maki rolls were straightforward, the rainbow roll looked lovely but I was too full to eat a bite. I was hoping for desert but was too full, just kidding, just went for the Mochi but noticed that some of the desserts made their way over from Kaze-the previous sushi stop of Chef Chan.
Service was exceptional, and no one said a word, shut off the music, or turned off the lights while I gabbed away with my friend -the last two people in the joint-until 10:45!
Walk ins beware-even on a Tuesday night at 7:00 I need a reservation, or expect to be waiting awhile!
Macku, 2239 N. Clybourn-773-880-8012-Open Daily 5pm-Close
Labels: Macku, sushi
"About Last Night..." Gia Gets Unzipped
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
The light of the candles flickered. The soft, sexy sounds of Cafe del Mar played in the background. It was a magical night. "Are you ready?", "yes, I'm ready", "is this what you wanted?", "absolutely" I said with a smile. It was love, love at first sight. Insert a record SCCCCRRRATCH now, as the only love I was feelin that night was for the man-size, ginormous, hunkilicious, ELVIS burger from Stanley's Kitchen and Tap. "Mmmmmmm, sooo gooood" was all I could say as I literally clapped when Cydney brought this dish to the table. But first, let me rewind and tell you about Stanley's Kitchen and Tap IN THE EVENT THAT you did not see my 30 second spot on the Game Time Dine Season Premier!
Stanley's is a place you go when you want to feel like you're just hanging out at a neighborhood joint. It's like eating at home, minus the cooking and clean up factor. The place is chock full of things to do from brunches, theme nights, the famous Burger Bar, and if you're a Long Horn fan this is your place! But the extensive menu is what makes this place feel so great. You'll find Chef Jaysen's menu to be full of yummy comfort food such as macaroni and cheese, a variety of amazing sandwiches, and extraordinary dishes like his famous shrimp and cheese grit creation which is outstanding. The drink and desert menu is equally broad with drinks like Sucker Punch, Texas Tea and Spiked Milkshakes. Famous for the fried chicken I couldn't resist this choice either on this particular lovely night. I stared the Elvis burger down and enjoyed the Angus beef with pimento cheese and tiny, crisp onion rings. I should have been embarrassed at the amount of food consumed, but when it's this good you just subtly unzip, or unbutton, whichever is your thing, and keep the good stuff coming.
Check it out - there's something fun going on every day of the week!
In fact, I'll be there again Saturday so don't delay - I'm going for brunch. I'll be the girl, in loose sweatpants licking my fingers from the fried chicken (not really on the pants...you know me better than that!).
Stanley's Kitchen & Tap is located at 1970 N. Lincoln Ave. Chicago, IL 312.642.0007
In these photos: Gia Claire, Professional Bloggess, Cyndey, Fabulous Server at Stanley's
See you next week! check me (Gia Claire) out on Facebook, Twitter or email Gia@efete.net
Labels: dating and dining in chicago, new restaurants
To Market with Mo: tiny but intense...
...clearly I am not describing myself, unless of course women who are six feet tall are suddenly deemed 'tiny'. No, 'tiny but intense' best befits micro-greens. Let me tell you, I cannot get my fill of these petite doses of green. And, in this 'super-sized' world we live in, it is so incredibly refreshing to find something so wonderfully tasty in micro-size.
Hitting the last few indoor farmers markets, the biggest clue that we are nearing outdoor market season (fyi...Green City kicks off the outdoor Chicago area farmers market season on May 12th. How excited am I?!?
) is the presence of the micro-greens. Nothing complicated or exotic here, micro-greens are simply the seedlings that are harvested before developing into mature greens and/or herbs. Oh, but add a few micro-greens to a dish and turn on the instant 'wow' factor. Those you are feeding just might think they are being served something complex and exotic, when all you prepared was a simple omelet that suddenly looks fresher, prettier and most important, tastier.
I dare not call them 'cute'. No, nothing 'cute' could pack such a punch of flavor and nutrition. Think of them as a super concentrated form of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and a zing of flavor. A great way to sneak in more 'healthy' into any dish. And back to 'keep it simple' in the kitchen, what could be easier than adding some to a sandwich or wrap (boy that trumps a flavorless leaf of iceberg
), garnish a pizza, quesadilla, stir fry, or piece of grilled fish, add to sushi and maki rolls, salads, or forget the mature salad greens and make a salad using only micro greens. The other day I gave my favorite Spring dish of grilled asparagus topped with a fried egg the 'wow' factor with a topping of Three Sisters Garden
mixed mirco-greens. I did not think I could love this dish more. Wow
, I do love this dish more.
Some of my favorite sources for la petite
greens are Three Sisters Garden
mixed micros and petite pea greens, Tiny Greens
for, oh where do I begin, bronze fennel, radish, curly cress, arugula, amaranth, onion, sunflower, to name a handful, and Heritage Prairie Farms
for mixed micros. I recommend using your greens soon after getting them home, but if you are not ready to use right away, store in a closed container (the plastic bag or container you brought them home in are perfectly fine
) in the fridge for up to a week.
Micro-greens: proof that great things come in small packages (present company excluded from that statement of course ;)
See you at the markets!
Labels: Chicago Farmers Markets, Heritage Prairie Farms, micro greens, seasonal organic produce, Three Sister's Garden, Tiny Greens
Mangia Mangia!..."Diet Bytes by Sandy"
Monday, April 19, 2010
With swimsuit season around the corner, you may be pondering your next weight loss endeavor. This probably isn't your first attempt to drop the pounds. In the past, you've likely cut calories, skipped meals, and given up your favorite snacks all in hopes of watching the numbers on the scale get smaller and smaller.
Remember back to that unpleasant feeling of dissatisfied hunger and constant crankiness. It wasn't fun, but...it's normal, right? Wrong. You have to eat in order to lose weight!
It's true that we need to burn calories in order to lose body fat. But, our body still needs a certain amount of calories, or "energy" in order to carry out its basic functions. The common misconception that is if we just eat less and less and exercise more and more, we'll continue to shrink until we've attained our goal weight. Not so easy. Once we deprive the body of the energy it needs to function, we go into conservation mode. The body senses that we're starving, slows the metabolism, and conserves stored body fat.
Think of calories like the gas in a car...if you continually put too little gas in the tank, the car will stall. Calories are needed to support our organs, muscle, immune system, hormones, etc. When we undereat, we aren't supporting our organs, and eventually, they'll shut down.
Most women need at least 1,400-1,500 calories a day and most men need at least 1800-1900. However, if you're active, you'll need many more. Consult a dietitian to be sure that you're eating enough. Or, you can use this quick and dirty tool online http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/calorie-calculator/NU00598.
If you think you may be undereating, you should consider these common signs and symptoms:
Are you constantly tired, cranky, or cold?
Is your hair thinning, or have you been ill more frequently than usual?
Do you have intense cravings and trouble concentrating?
If this sounds like you, focus on structured mealtimes. Most people skimp on breakfast, eat a little more at lunch, then feast at dinner time. Try to have at least 400-500 calories (for women) or at least 600 calories (for men) at every meal, plus snacks. Remember that breakfast skippers are more likely to be obese and develop type 2 diabetes. Get in some morning grub within 1 hour of waking up and aim for fiber, complex carbohydrates, and protein. Try Greek yogurt with almonds and a piece of fruit. Or, grill up an omelet with mushrooms, tomatoes, and feta cheese. Get in the proper amount of calories by picking healthy snacks like fruit, nuts, and string cheese. "Take care of your body. It's the only place you have to live."-Jim Rohn.
Sandy N. Sfikas, RD, LDN
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