To Market with Mo: I'm Not Ginger

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"I am not ginger. I am not from Jerusalem. I am not an artichoke. I am not an apple. What I am is a North American tuber, related to the sunflower, with a curiously sweet, nutty, earthy flavor," so says the Jerusalem Artichoke, or as known in some circles, the Sunchoke.

The native American indians, who had been eating said tuber for some time, called it 'sun root', hey makes sense, root of a sunflower relation. Okay, that I get. But leave it to European explorers to confuse matters. 'Hum, tastes kind of like an artichoke, and since my Italian not so good (being a French explorer and all) I think I will call this knobby little tuber an Artichoke of Jerusalem, instead of the italian word for sunflower that I was really looking for - girasole.' Okay, maybe that is not a direct quote from 17th century explorers, but you get the idea.

So sunchoke, which was trademarked in the 1960's, seems to be a most accurate name for this potassium packed gnarly root. How this delicious veg fell out of favor is beyond me. Word has it that it was thought that the Jerusalem Artichoke caused leporsy. Another victim of being judged by it's cover. Thank goodness that little rumor faded and we can find sunchokes at the markets right now. Look for firm, plump tubers free of any sprouts, mold or any green tinge.

At home, store your chokes in the fridge for up to two weeks wrapped in plastic. But why wait so long? So easy to cook up. What? You dread the chore of peeling them? Don't let that stop you, the skins are so tender I wouldn't even bother peeling. Just give them a good scrub and then enjoy raw in salads or crudite, or start cooking. Mashed, sauteed, roasted, boiled, fried as chips, or added to soups and stir-fries, it's all good.

Since this is the last week for most outdoor Chicago area Farmers Markets, (FYI, Evanston's still going until November 7th!) I went a little hog wild buying alot of Fall produce. So time to get out the roasting pan and roast up some sunchokes with the abundance of Brussels Sprouts, sweet potatoes and winter squash that I felt compelled to bring home. No recipe here. Just prep and cut veg into one inch pieces, toss with some olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme (if so inclined), in a roasting pan, pop into a 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes and there you go, fantastic side, or if like me, something to snack on all day - hey, better for you than chips or chocolate.
P.S. Since the outdoor Farmers Markets are closing up for the season bet you are wondering, 'what now Mo?' Well, seeking out indoor farmers markets (fyi, Green City moves indoors starting November 4th,, and rumor has it that the Logan Square Farmers Market is moving indoors as well,, and seeking out some of the incredible food products (like honey, maple syrup, cheeses, chocolates, jams and gelatos) that are made by food artisans right here in the Chicago area.
Do you have a favorite indoor Farmers Market or locally made food product? I would love to hear about it. Shoot me a note at See you at the markets.

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"About Last Night..." Chicago's BEST 30 under $30

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

No silly, I'm not talking about ME.  That would have to be titled "Chicago's most F.L.Y. Girl in her ahem....just after thirties"...but I digress.  THIS is talking about Chef Martial Noguier's Cafe Des Architectes amazing cuisine.  
Featured in November's issues of Chicago Magazine...on the COVER is his Salted Caramel chocolate cake.  I can honestly tell you I acted like the woman in the Herbal Essence commercial when we met. (the cake that is...though Chef Martial WAS adorable).
But first, if you haven't been to this restaurant (located in the Sofitel Hotel) it's an absolute MUST for a perfect, romantic, classy, elegant evening.  Red is the color and this place has an amazingly cool vibe.  The lighting is white and it just towers over the restaurant with large tubes of white light reflecting off the red seating.  It just glows.  The music is soft and subtle so you can enjoy a meaningful conversation, if that's your thing.  The bar is back lit with a deep shade of blue and I imagine draws quite a crowd off this beautiful Oak Street location.  
Chef Martial (pronounced Marsheeeaaaaalll) came out, and as he greeted me with a smile and a wave of his hand to his kitchen he said only this "I cook for you".  How can a girl resist? Already in love with the French accent and passion for food, I waited with baited breath as each passing dish crossed my lips.  
These items are a MUST if you go...and you MUST go.  
The Chioggia Baby Beet Salad, not sure how these beets were prepared but combined with goat cheese and the vinaigrette were soft, great texture, and a nutty flavor.  The Peekytoe Crab Salad with local melon, and cucumber was a smooth and sweet balance.  The Ahi Tuna "A La Plancha" was perfectly tender and delicious.  For desert, we sampled the Blackberry Cloud and of course, as mentioned, and featured, the Chocolate Salted Caramel Cake.  It was salty, it was dense and it was filled with a caramel explosion.  
Chef Martial joined us for a glass of champagne after dinner and shared his love of food, his passion for cooking and his joy of life with his family here in Chicago.  It was a most delightful evening.
The only, teeny, tiny, little thing about this place...and you know I tell it like I see have to take an elevator through the lobby to get to the restroom.  Not so much.  I reduced my liquid intake after the first trip.  However, the restrooms, were private, secluded, and romantic...if you get my drift.  All I can say is plus s'il vous plait (mmmooooore pleeeease).

In photos: Chef Martial and Gia Claire, Professional Bloggess
Cafe Des Architectes is located in the Sofitel Hotel on 20 East Chestnut St. 312.324.4063

If you are interested in a food experience with Gia Claire please reach out to me on Facebook or email at


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Rules of the food court..."DietBytes by Sandy"

It's a familiar scenario. You're enjoying a leisurely day shopping at the mall and then -- it happens. It starts as a few innocuous rumbles and develops into a full-blown hunger attack! You look briefly for restaurant options, but all that surrounds you is...the food court! OK, relax--there are some acceptable choices among the plethora of fried foods and sugary snacks. Let's sift through some common selections to uncover the best (and worst) food court offerings.

Situation #1: It's been weeks since you've given in to your Chinese food craving. What better place to get some quick and cheap Asian cuisine than Panda Express? Even though the fried rice may seem innocent, it's actually one of the highest calorie and sodium choices on the menu (570 calories and 900 mg of sodium)! Add an egg roll and you are about to consume 670 calories and 1,290 mg of sodium. Ouch! My solution? Go for the sweet and sour chicken with a side of steamed rice for 500 calories and 590 mg of sodium. Or, the Sweetfire chicken breast for 440 calories and 370 mg of sodium. Save room for a few fortune cookies -- They're only 32 calories each (and nearly sodium-free) can even have 2 if you're unhappy with your first fortune!

Situation #2: Before you can even think about what you are in the mood to eat, the sugary scent of cinnamon buns puts you in a hypnotic state. All of a sudden, you find yourself at the Cinnabon counter, desperate to order. Take my advice and walk away immediately! Each Cinnabon Classic Cinnamon Roll has about 800 calories, 8 grams of saturated fat and 5 grams of artery-clogging trans fats! There is no excuse to even consider eating one of these fat slabs dressed in melted cream cheese. Instead, head to Auntie Anne's pretzels where you can order the Original pretzel (without salt and butter) for only 310 calories and 1 gram of fat (no trans fat or saturated fat). If you're feeling saucy, both the marinara and the sweet mustard dip have less than 60 calories.

Situation #3: You just remember that you skipped breakfast (shame on you!), and there's only one thing that will satisfy this type of beastly hunger: pizza! One skimpy piece may not be enough, so you consider treating yourself to a piece of Sbarro's Pepperoni stuffed pizza. It may look (and taste) like a triangle of heaven but for 960 calories, it's not worth it! Instead, head to Pizza Hut where you can have your own individual pan pepperoni pizza for 610 calories. Better yet? Eat half and save the rest for tomorrow's lunch...something to look forward to !

The next time you are headed to the mall, be prepared. Grab an apple and a handful of almonds for a perfect on-the-go energizing snack. Remember that when we are over-hungry, we tend to overeat and under-estimate appropriate portion sizes. Use my rules to dine wisely and eat well. Healthy Eating!

Sandy N. Sfikas, RD, LDN


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To Market with Mo: Celery's Ugly Cousin

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Celery Root. Celeriac. Hum, just don't know where to begin with you. I just sit here staring at you and....nothing. Awfully American of me I suppose. Not only do we Yanks want you to taste good, but gosh darn it, you better have some good looks that indicate such. But you? You, you, you just don't send off that 'good looks, equals good taste' signal with your, how shall I say, your, not so appealing looks. Sorry.

Clearly the French don't judge taste 'by the cover' as they are big big fans of celeriac. I mean, can you walk into a bistro in France and not find celeri remoulade on the menu? Oui, I thought not.

Get past that brownish, gnarly exterior, I suggest a paring knife as opposed to a vegetable peeler, and underneath lies a smooth,milky-white, aromatic flesh. The smell and taste are refreshing, grassy, nutty, and kind of lemony all at once. And yes, as the name implies, a bit like celery. Celeriac loves to be paired with apples, parsley, potatoes, lemon, and what it does with cream? Heaven. It adds a great crunch to any salad or crudite platter. And cooked? Glazed, roasted, mashed, as a gratin, or added to soups and stews, on it's own, or with other root and Fall veg, delish.

For all you carb counters out there, celeriac, which is only about 5% starch, is a great stand in for the spud and is low cal, and high in fiber and vitamin K to boot. Right now (Fall) is the best time of year to enjoy celery root at it's peak. Look for firm and unblemished roots about the size of a baseball. Once peeled, you will loose about a quarter or the root so factor that in when cooking.

Though a huge fan of the celeri remoulade, the cooler days just say soup to me. As soup, celeriac cooks down into silky sublimeness in a bowl. And with truffle oil to boot? oh la la, say moi.

Celeriac & Potato Soup with Truffle Oil
(adapted from 'Jamie's Kitchen' by Jamie Oliver)

I medium white or yellow onion, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoon butter
4 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small bunch of thyme, tied with a string (or sub 3/4 tablespoon dry thyme)
3 cups (just over a pound) celeriac, peeled and diced
3 cups potatoes (a floury not waxy variety), peeled and diced
2 pints chicken stock
7 tablespoons heavy cream (honestly this soup is great without it but go for it, who doesn't love a bit of cream?)
sea or kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste.
4 tablespoons truffle oil (if you don't have, don't stress this soup can stand alone)
Optional garnish
(chopped parsley & celery leaves tossed with olive oil and lemon juice. sprinkle on soup just before serving)

In soup pot, saute onion in butter and olive oil for about 5 minutes, or until onion is tender and translucent.
Add celeriac, potatoes, thyme and stock to the pot. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 40 minutes, until the veg are tender. Add cream, if going there. Bring to a boil again, the remove bundle of thyme. Remove pot from stove top. Puree mixture, in batches, in a food processor or blender, or break out the 'boat motor' (aka handblender) and puree away.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add truffle oil a tablespoon at a time until desired flavor is reached (strength of flavor can vary depending on brand and whether using black or white truffle oil).
Divide among soup bowls and garnish with parsley-celery leaf salad.

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Deceptive Health Foods..."DietBytes by Sandy"

Upon my return from an annual food and nutrition conference and expo for dietitians, I'm enlightened by the knowledge I acquired, but bewildered by some of the things that I saw. Along with attending educational sessions presented by dietitians, PhD's, medical doctors, and researchers in the field, I also walked the exhibit floor which felt a lot less scientific. I grabbed a Coke Zero on one aisle, and was instantly faced with Kentucky Fried Chicken on the next. Nestle was handing out ice cream bars, while Lay's potato chip crumbs covered the floor.   

As a dietitian, I am trained to understand how "all foods fit" into a healthy diet. And I do believe that there are no off-limit or unhealthy foods, just unhealthy choices and portions. But, I can see how it can get confusing to all the non-dietitians out there just trying to create a healthy diet for themselves and their loved ones.

While it should be pretty clear that unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains should be the base for a nutritious diet, what about all those snack foods out there disguised as health foods? 

It's time to reveal my top three deceptive health foods. While these foods may not be completely ruining your diet, they are definitely NOT providing you with the nutrition that you think they might be. After all, if something sounds too good to be true, it often is.

#1. Fiber bars: You can't escape these candy bar look-a-likes, boasting to provide a healthy dose of your daily dietary fiber needs. They claim to deliver a wholesome breakfast, a fulfilling snack option, or even a fiber-liscious meal alternative. Don't be fiber-fooled! The type of fiber often used in these bars is an "isolated" fiber called inulin. Inulin lacks the typical grainy texture of most intact fibers, so it is can be easily incorporated into previously fiber-free foods. We love fiber for its ability to lower cholesterol and keep us full . However, there are no studies that say inulin can do either of these things. Inulin may help to keep your digestive system moving, however so will a bowl of wheat bran or beans! My advise is to skip chocolatey-coated impostors and reach for the real thing.
#2. 100 calorie packs: Fortunately, it feels like these guys are on the way out. But when they first were discovered, it seemed like every snack food was packaged in the miniature, shiny "100 calorie" bag. I can't argue that portion control is a highly effective strategy for weight loss. However, it seems that these easily available options can quickly replace much healthier snacks in the diet. And they usually leave you just as hungry as you were pre-snack time! Instead of grabbing a 100-calorie pack of crackers, cookies, granola, or chips, try 15 stalks of celery or 2 cups of carrots instead. My bottom line: fill up on filling food like fruits and vegetables. Your body will thank you.
#3. "Superfruit" juices: You must have heard of MonaVie or other juices which contain exotic fruits like acai, mangosteen, or goji berries. And if you have bought these juices, you have felt the emptiness that they leave in your wallet! These juices are $40-80 per bottle and are usually part of pyramid schemes. Could there be any truth to the claims that the high amount of antioxidants in these juices can speed up weight loss, increase energy, and slow down the aging process? Not likely since studies have shown that eating an apple will give you more antioxidants than in one serving of these super juices. Furthermore -- since the fruits are indigenous to places like Peru and the Amazon -- they are next to impossible to find in their whole form. So what we are left with is a tiny amount of the actual fruit juice combined with apple juice or grape juice. If you ask me, save the superfruits for the super-naive. 

Healthy eating,
Sandy Sfikas, RD, LDN


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"About Last Night.." It's ALL about the Lemons

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What with this gooooorgeous Chicago weather how could we resist stopping at this adorable little place off Halsted on Webster called the Athenian Room.  Wouldn't you know it my date was Greek?...go figure.  As soon as we walked in this place had that small, charming, family owned sort of look to it.  The owner and my date started talking some sort of gibberish about the old country, etc, and blah blah blah, it was all Greek to me.  Quite frankly, after boutique shopping I had worked up quite an appetite, and they could put a lid on the "jooojeeeki" sauce if you know what I mean.  Sounding a little crabby huh? well it's so unfair when people start yapping in another language and I have no clue what's being said.  The place was filled and the outside seating had a long wait so no worries, we cozied up to a nice table and I let my date pick, given the expertise.  I noticed the kitchen was run by Hispanics so I wasn't really sure if I should expect a burrito or a kebob...but like I was all good.  Out came a plethora of delicious tasting Greek goodness such as warm pita with Tzatziki (pronounced jooojeeki) sauce, spanakopita (spinach pie) and pork and chicken kebobs.  WOW...if I closed my eyes I could have been on the island of Santorini for all I knew (minus a nice tan, and white linen clothing).  The kebobs were nestled on a warm pita with peppers an onions, and the steak fries were basting in a lemony seasoned oil which was soooooo delicious.  Whoever said "it's NOT about the lemons"...I'm here to tell you...It's ALL about the lemons for Greek food.  Everything was so very authentic and flavorful that there was nary a morsel left on my plate.  Go figure.  Truly, if I weren't thin, with my appetite, each date could be my last.

Ok, here's where the date went south.  Around the corner on Halsted was a beautiful airy, ice cream looking place called Star Fruit Cafe.  Mmmm what a way to top off that meal than with a nice frosty bowl of....(insert a record scratch to my beautiful song)...KEFIR...KEFIR???  Are you kidding me? people were walking around with big smiles on their faces eating KEFIR? It was unfair to even use a name like that whilst pouring white glistening tubes of ice cream looking goodness into a bowl to be topped with gummy bears.  Well, I'm hear to tell you, they can take the name and the cafe and call it whatever they like because that was THE most bitter, cold, nothing flavor I have ever eaten.  Every bite was like..."really?  KEFIR?".  NOT SO MUCH.

All's well.. I landed a new winter hat round the corner which I'm sure will turn heads with the neighbors...perfect!

The Athenian Room is located at 807 West Webster Ave.  Chicago, IL 773.348.5155

In these photos:  you guessed it, Gia Claire, Professional Bloggess

Come visit me on Facebook and Twitter:  Search Gia Claire


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To Market with Mo: First Fruit

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Red Delicious, Macoun, Northern Spy, Winesap, Swiss Gourmet, Braeburn, Gala, Mutsu, Sweet Sixteen, Liberty, whoa, stop me here. If I continue to list the approximately 7500 known varieties of apples in the world, I would far exceed my roughly 500 word or less (okay, don't go counting each entry word-for-word now) per blog entry limit. And, if I attempted to sample each variety? Well, let's just say I would be eating an apple a day for the next twenty years. Hey, one way to keep the 'doctor away.'

Now, I know you can probably get your hands on a few varieties of apples at the grocery store year round, but before you go and settle, get yourself out to the Farmers Market ( I know that there are at least a few still running outdoors thru the end of October) and treat yourself to some Illinois, Michigan, and Indiana apples they way they were meant to be enjoyed. Fresh from the farm, and free of wax and shellac coatings and nasty irradiants and preservatives (yeah, this explains why that store-bought apple you cut into and forgot on the counter, still hasn't turned brown after a couple of hours) and full of flavor. Yes, flavor. Most commercially grown apples have had the flavor bred right out of them, producing a good-looking, but bland and (as termed by the commercial growers, not me) 'neutral' flavored piece of fruit.

Get to the market and discover what apples really taste like. And those flavors are as diverse as the names. Oh, and looks ain't everything either. Take the 'Twenty Ouncer' for instance -- a huge and rather russeted and bumpy (like, no other way to say it, bad acne) surface. Bite into it and you will never judge an apple by the surface again. Besides the Orange Cox Pippin and the Honey Crisp, I think the Twenty Ouncer is one of my favorites this season. But don't go on my tastebuds alone, plenty of the Farmers Market vendors are more than happy to give you samples of varieties you are unfamiliar with. And they are more than happy to explain the nuances of each variety. Why Nichols Farm alone grows about 167 varieties of apples.

Look for fragrant, firm and tight-skinned apples. Bruising, bad. Russeting (patches and stripes of different colors), good. Lots of fiber, lots of flavanoids, lots of antioxidants, lots of tannins, and low in calories, no wonder we should be eating them 'once a day.' Enjoy as is, sliced into salad, or slipped into a grilled cheese sandwich, Cook down into sauce (just cored, peeled and sliced apples, a squeeze of lemon, a little water, cinnamon, if you like, and that's it, just some time on the stove), bake into a pie or crisp, add to soup, roast or grill to accompany pork or chicken, or as below, on a perfect salad for this time of year.

Roasted Apple Salad
2 medium apples
olive oil
salt & cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary (optional)
mixed baby greens
Stilton or favorite blue cheese
favorite vinaigrette (a dijon works nicely)
honey for drizzling

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut apples in half and core. Place apples flesh-side up in a baking dish. Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle salt, pepper and rosemary on the apples.
Roast apples for 20 minutes. Remove from oven.
Toss salad greens with vinaigrette and divide among 4 salad plates. Place one apple half on each plate of greens. Then top each with a slice of stilton and a drizzle of honey. Kick it up a bit more with a sprinkling of toasted walnuts or pecans.

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"About Last Night..." Na Na Na Na Nana...Na Na Na NaaaaNa

Oh wait, I can't stop humming that old Journey song, exactly how many "Na Na's" were in that tune anyway?  Well...there's only one Nana at a brand new restaurant in Bridgeport called...appropriately..."Nana".  She's sweet, she's cute, and she's cooking up some dishes with Chef Jeremy that will warm your heart and delight your senses.  Only open for breakfast and lunch, at this point, it's the perfect place to grab a quick business lunch (NOT as in quicckkkie, just so we're clear, but hey, no judgement).  This cozy cafe is brightly lit and accented by crisp white detail that almost has a New England feel to it.  The copper lighting (shown in picture) is the exact same kind that Lance Armstrong has in his kitchen, so you know these folks did their homework on quality kitchen design.  The classic tunes of Nina Simone, and Sinatra playing in the background though would never allow you to mistake the fact that you're in the best city ever, enjoying a meal with Nana.  Established by Nana and her sons, this place feels like family, and is filled with love, truly.   When a family comes together to create a place like this you want to eat there just to see the business succeed, which no doubt it will.   Everyone had a piece of their heart in this place and you can just feel it.  Another unique thing about Nana's is that it is all organic so don't plan on crackin open a Diet Coke - nope, nada.  Using local farms and organic ingredients this place will get you into ship shape after just one meal (no, not really).
I highly recommend the Baked Chilaquiles (shown in picture).   The flavors are so rich and creamy yet not overpowering that you can eat this for breakfast or lunch.  This is one of Nana's old recipes that she made when her children were growing up.   Delicious!  
Also the Grilled Chicken and Grilled Cheese were amazing taste delights.  It's not just the simplicity of the choices, it's the fresh and wholesome ingredients that after biting into the grilled cheese you want to ask "Omg...WHERE did you get this bread?".   The Grilled chicken sandwich came with a barley type salad that was so unique I truly wished I could have purchased a pint to go, again...nada.  Vegetarian and Vegan friendly, this lovely place with the recycled wood tables and thrift store chairs is not just good's good for the environment...good for your health...and good for your soul.  Go see Nana...she'll give you a big hug and treat you like you're in her home.  

Shown in Photo:  Nana and Gia Claire, Professional Bloggess

Nana's is located at 3267 S. Halsted Chicago, IL 312.375.9163



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Become Sodium Savvy..."DietBytes by Sandy"

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

We are aware when we eat too many calories, because there are obvious consequences.  They're fondly known as as love handles, saddle bags, and double chins. However, when we over- consume sodium, there are no visible warning signs telling us to stop. 
You may have heard the latest reports that Americans are eating more sodium than we should. In 2006, the American Medical Association convinced the FDA to remove salt from the "generally regarded as safe (GRAS) list," so that the salt content in processed foods could be more tightly regulated. In addition to processed foods, restaurant chains have been inspected as well. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) conducted a study looking at 17 popular restaurant chains' menus. They found that 83% of the meals on these menus contained more than the current daily recommended amount of 2,300 milligrams of sodium (for adults without high blood pressure). In fact, some menu items had over 5,000 milligrams. 

Why is sodium the bad guy? Sodium is actually an essential mineral that influences nerve impulses, helps to maintain fluid balance, and impacts muscle contraction. Our kidneys regulate the amount of sodium in the body. However, excess sodium in the blood attracts excess water, which increases blood volume, making the heart work harder and harder to move blood through the blood vessels. This is what increases the pressure in the arteries, causing serious health problems. 

A recent study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion showed that if American adults kept their daily sodium intake less than 2,300 milligrams (the amount in only about 1 teaspoon of salt), it could potentially save $18 billion in medical costs for high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. 

Where does all this sodium come from? The obvious places are in fried foods, canned products, pickled foods, and processed meats like bacon, sausage, and salami. Contrary to common belief, 75% of the sodium in our diets is NOT from the salt shaker, but from salt and sodium-containing food additives in processed foods and restaurant offerings. Even a 6-inch turkey sandwich from Subway has 910 milligrams of sodium. That is almost half of the daily recommended amount!

How much sodium are we really eating? According to experts, most adults consume around 4,000 milligrams of sodium per day, which could look something like this:

Breakfast: Coffee shop muffin: 790 mg

Lunch: Turkey sandwich: 910 mg, pretzels: 1720 mg          

Dinner: McDonald's Cheeseburger: 780 mg                    

Total: 4,200 milligrams of sodium

The easiest way to cut back on sodium is to replace processed food with fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These foods are naturally sodium-free, and packed with nutrients like potassium and magnesium, which have been shown to lower blood pressure. Other ways to slash your sodium intake are to rinse and drain canned vegetables and beans, and use fresh herbs and spices as seasonings. Look for reduced-sodium sauces and salad dressings and watch out for bouillon cubes, soy sauce, and marinades. Start comparing labels on your favorite foods and soon you will become sodium savvy!

Healthy eating,

Sandy Sfikas, RD, LDN


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To Market with Mo: The Cabbage Flower

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Big, big, blow to the food world this week. The 70 year old chronicler of all things food, Gourmet, will cease with the November '09 issue. Wha?!? Noooooooo, say it isn't so. Gourmet has been my constant companion in the kitchen for more years than I care to admit with this crowd. Admittedly, I did cheat and invite other food/cooking magazines into the kitchen, but I have to say Gourmet has always been my favorite and with me the longest.

Between my old friend leaving and Fall rushing in (guess I really need to switch out my closet full of summer clothes) I need me some comfort food. Cauliflower of course. Again I can hear you saying 'what?' How can this crunchy, slightly sulphurous, and bitter veg be considered a 'comfort food'? Roasting baby. Suddenly, okay maybe more like in 25 minutes, cauliflower is transformed into sweet and nutty deliciousness. If you were not a fan of this member of the cabbage family before, you will be after a bite of it in it's roasted state.

Once you go roasted you might further branch out from the raw florets on a crudite platter to a velvety puree or mash, or a creamy soup. But back to that crudite platter for a moment. With such beautiful varieties like the vitamin A packed orange Cheddar, the purple varieties that are full of the antioxidant anthocyanin (see, red wine isn't the only way to get this antioxidant), and then there is the gorgeous green Romanesco with it's spiky curd (yeah, the 'head' is actually a collection of curds or underdeveloped flowers, go figure), not only will you be loading up on lots of healthy goodness (all are low-cal, high in fiber and high in vitamins C and K), but your platter will be knock out good looking.

Get to the farmers market and look for clean compact heads (oh, curds), that are spot-free and have bright color. Those that are wrapped in lots of fresh green leaves are being kept nice and fresh (and keep those leaves and stem for stock or soups). And size? Doesn't matter, whatever suits your needs or likes. Store your cauliflower in a plastic or paper bag, stem side down, in the fridge, for up to a week.

Typically I roast my cauliflower in just a bit of olive oil, garlic salt and pepper, but in the interest of keeping my husband healthy, I added some turmeric. Studies have shown that combining turmeric and cauliflower is a terrific way to preserve prostate health, not a lot of prostate cancer in India I am guessing.

Roasted Cauliflower
1 medium to large head of cauliflower
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
salt & cracked black pepper to taste
1-2 tablespoons 'plumped'* golden raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Core and cut cauliflower into 1 inch florets. Toss the cauliflower with olive oil, turmeric, garlic, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Spread the cauliflower evenly, in a single layer, on a baking sheet with sides (jelly roll pan). Roast cauliflower until it is golden and tender, approximately 25 minutes.
*Plumped = raisins soaked in hot water for 10 minutes.

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"About Last Night..." Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, Samantha, and Gia

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Walking up to Yolk on a Saturday afternoon you would think the ladies from Sex and the City had just taken over the place.  The line was almost curling around the corner and the wait was forty minutes.  "Forty minutes?? are you kidding me?" was my only reaction to the nice little twenty-something girl staring blankly at me from behind the counter.  Oh well, I was committed...I was starving...and I HAD to see what all the fuss was about.  After scouring through the menu, making random play lists on my IPhone, and scoping out everyone else's food when she called my name I leapt from my chair...ready to tackle an omelet the size of a football. The energy in this place is amazing. Much like Sex in the City, there are people gathered in groups, couples in tiny little blue booths and an entourage of interesting people at the bar sipping their coffee and enjoying the food.  I could literally picture the gals there, chatting about men, bad dates, and funky tasting...eggs.  But not here...Oh no, this food was outstanding.  Only open for breakfast and lunch the menu has a wide assortment of omelets, sandwiches, salads, pancakes, you name it.  I chose the Hey Ricky omelet which was Spanish with avocado, Chorizo, jalapenos and cheeses.  It came with a fresh assortment of fruit wedges.  The portion was more than three inches high and took over the entire plate.  HUGE!  But everything was so delicious it made me want to have a standing Saturday breakfast just so I could sample everything on the menu. Yolk is cool, hip, and I suggest you grab your favorite someone (as you can see in the picture...that's exactly what I did), and head there immediately.  And hey..."man up" the forty minute wait is totally worth it.  Text me while you're waiting...I'll put a smile on your face. 

Yolk has two locations: (South Loop) 1120 S. Michigan Ave 312.789.9655 and (River North) 747 N. Wells St. 312.787.2277

In photo:  Gia Claire, Professional Bloggess, and unidentified "favorite someone"
Check me out on Facebook - search "Gia Claire" - don't miss the fun! 

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Beat the Bug..."DietBytes by Sandy"

Ahh, the sounds of the season: sneezing, sniffling, nose blowing, and coughing!  As sit down to write, I can't escape the ominous sounds of my coworkers spreading their germs for all of us to share. While I have been tempted to wear a face mask since the start of October, I know there are better and less antisocial ways to avoid getting sick. Since I can't dodge my lovely coworkers, or hide from my equally sick prone friends, I am committed to staying sneeze-free by getting enough sleep, managing my stress and...eating to strengthen my immune system. 
It's not reasonable to expect that one food will significantly enhance your immune system. However, it is a smart idea to eat an overall healthy diet while focusing on these foods and nutrients, to avoid a catching a bug this season.
Antioxidants are substances in foods that can stop or slow oxidative damage in our bodies. These magical nutrients have been shown to help prevent heart disease and cancer, and also can enhance the immune system and lower the risk of infection. The three major antioxidants are beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E. 
To find beta carotene (and other carotenoids, which act as antioxidants), look for colorful fruits and vegetables like apricots, beets, carrots, green peppers, mangoes, peaches, pumpkin, squash, spinach, sweet potato, tangerines, tomatoes, and watermelon. 
We've been hearing about vitamin C and its questionable ability to fend off infection for years. Whether or not the studies have been conclusive, it's not a bad idea to up your intake of berries, grapefruit, honeydew, kale, kiwi, oranges, peppers, sweet potatoes, strawberries, and tomatoes when you feel the onset of a cold.  
Vitamin E is not as popular of a vitamin, but its powers should not go unnoticed. Researchers found that a daily vitamin E supplement may help prevent colds. Get your E by loading up on broccoli, swiss chard and turnip greens, nuts, and sunflower seeds. 
If you're like me, you've probably tried zinc lozenges like "cold-eeze," which not only taste dreadful, but are mostly pointless. However, you can get your zinc from food, while actually enjoying the flavor and reaping the benefits of the immune-enhancing mineral. Sources of zinc include red meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, milk products, whole grains, fortified cereals, and legumes. 
Selenium is another antioxidant found in fish, that has been shown to support the immune system. You can also find it in red meat, chicken, eggs, brazil nuts, garlic, some grains, and mushrooms. 
Good nutrition is as fundamental as washing your hands and getting enough rest during cold season. It's also crucial to look at which key nutrients you're not getting enough of. Many peoples' diets may be lacking omega 3-fatty acids and vitamin D. Omega 3's protect against inflammation in the body while low vitamin D levels have been linked to an increase in respiratory infections like the flu. Your best bet? --Salmon gives you a healthy dose of both omega 3's and vitamin D! 
Feed yourself well, stay healthy and enjoy the season. 
Healthy eating!
Sandy Sfikas, RD, LDN 


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