Sunday, March 28, 2010

My New Favorite Substances I am Obsessing Over

1. Honey - Read all the benefits of honey here. Who knew? I didn't. I am now trying to have a cup of tea before bed w/honey, I like cooking with honey, honey and sweet potatoes in particular, and there are so many honeys to choose from, Heritage Prairie Lavender Honey, Chicago Honey Co-op, and then there is Mead sold by Wild Blossom Meadery here n Chi-town. Like wine, like any natural substance, the honey will taste different depending on what flowers and plants are growing near the hives. I know, honey is not cheap, but you don't need to use as much of it as sugar and because you metabolize it so much quicker and in a healthier way than regular table sugar(go to link benefits of honey, here if you didn't before) how can you not start using honey???????? Honey is a wonder of nature. And if I start to have a craving for something sweet, a spoonful of honey does the trick!

2. Maple Syrup - Read about all the benefits of maple syrup here. Another wonder of nature, maple syrup. My favorite local syrup is Burton's, I always assumed, growing up on the East coast and going to college at Dartmouth in New Hampshire, that maple syrup was a product of New England and Canada. Who knew that maple trees go as far west as Indiana and that the syrup tastes really great!!! Not only are pancakes the easiest things to make that even I can do it but maple syrup goes great with roasted sweet potatoes, and most root vegetables, works in my favorite cleansing drink The Master Cleanse and is an all around great thing to have in your pantry!!!!!!!

3.Wheat Grass - Read about the benefits of wheat grass here. I could go and on about how I am so adamant about including a shot of wheat grass in your diet. When I went to the Green City Market yesterday, Tiny Greens, my favorite WG to buy was sold out by 10am. WG definitely takes a bit of time to get used to. But it is one of the best things you can do for yourself!!!!!!!!!! Read about the benefits that's all I can say......and Tiny Greens if you read about the farm, you will understand the care that goes into growing this particular WG.

4. FRESH Tofu - I have to be honest, I have not quite incorporated fresh tofu into my diet. But the benefits are here. I just heard her speak and tasted the tofu made by Jenny Yang of Phoenix Bean Products, and Tiny Greens makes it as well, that my opinion was changed on tofu. Then when I looked into the benefits of tofu, I decided that I really want to include it in my food repetoire. The amazing thing about tofu is that it is a sponge and picks up flavor really easily, I tasted some of Jenny's tofu and was happily surprised. I am not a huge meat eater, and I can't really say when the last time I had red meat, it was that long ago, and actually the thought of red meat now kind of makes me feel sick, but tofu is a great source of protein among other things, and all you really need are spices, which can be bought at my favorite spice place, The Spice House, and some nice vinegar or oil which can be bought or ordered from The Olive Tap, and voila you have this incredibly tasty concoction in front of you. Even, I, the inept cook, can whip something up that hits my taste buds.

5. Pectin - Before meeting Elizabeth from Rare Bird Preserves, I really didn't know what pectin was. Here are the benefits of it. Mike Sula, The Food Chain, blog for the Chicago Reader, produced a tiny video of Elizabeth making preserves, publicly available on YouTube, here. Elizabeth derives her pectin fresh from the apples she uses for her preserves. I couldn't find anything written about the difference of fresh pectin versus commercialy sold pectin. However, intuitively it seems that a jam must be better for you if the pectin used is fresh from the fruits used to make the jam, without any additives to make the pectin have a longer shelf life. But I am going to start to pay attention more to what substances have pectin in it. WHo knew???

Well, I could go on and on about olive oils, about vinegars about cacao, about coffee, about red wine, about vegetables about funghi,and blue green algae but I won't. Honey, maple syrup, wheat grass, tofu and pectin have been the latest substance I have been obsessing about and trying to incorporate more into my diet and be aware of. For me the hapless cook and consummate slacker, the more I use things that I know are good for me, and taste good, the less I have to worry about other things, and it makes life simpler, easier and less stressful and most of all, I feel better and am happier, isn't that what it is all about??

My other latest obsession has been Europe, Verbier, skiing, and living in Aspen part of the year and how to make it happen.....Thinking Verbier reminded me of my climb with my friend Judy arranged by Adventures to the Edge, that I came across when I was on a trip to Creste Butte. Judy and I with a guide climbed the Pigne de la Le, that is pictured in a video here, not my video but it is funny, I have a picture next to that huge cairn.................I have been trying to make it happen and manifest it despite my lack of funds and any kind of job that would pay for it(at the moment). I don't really think anyone reads this blog except my friend Cat(thank you!) but if you do and you have any ideas for me to make living in Aspen part of the year and living in Chicago part of the here happen, please leave a comment, I would really appreciate it!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ciao JB

Monday, March 22, 2010

New Running Shoes,Will the relationship last?

Well, I went to the Shamrock Shuffle Expo and bought slightly used running shoes for $50, they really don't even looked use, Saucony Pro Grid Hurricane 11, listed on their website at $140. I am so excited!!! For the last 1+years I have been running in shoes I get from where I work, and between working all day on a cement floor with the shoes on and then running on the asphalt on the Lake Front, my feet and legs have been hurting. As much as the place has put us through training to explain all the thought that goes into producng the shoes, all the shoes hurt my feet after about a week of wear.

However, I still don't understand why the running shoes break down so quickly? The gortex versions of the their shoes do work really well in the snow but running on the Lakefront it feels like I am wearing cement shoes and the shoes really kill my feet. What is it about the midlayer and the material that the midsole is made out of that makes a Saucony, a Brooks or an Asics feel great and last a long time and the other shoes break down so quickly and feel so bad??

So the question is, will my relationship with the Saucony's last? Only time will tell but I now have no excuse when it comes to running because I now have shoes that are really comfortable!!!! Some other trail shoes I would love to try are Brooks Cascadas and La Sportivas which I have read really good things about. I was miserable for a long time having to put on the other shoes(I still have to wear them at work and leave work with my feet and legs and body aching a lot of the time) so now there will be a lot of homeless people who wear size 6 1/2 w/the shoes I get for free on. So my goal now is to get my mileage up and to stay off pavement as much as possible.

I also have to get back to speedwork once a week .. have to get in gear!!!!!!!!!

Woo hoo!!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tastings and Foragings

I love lists so my latest list is all the tasting, sampling, discerning, learning you can do about artisanal food products and beverages in Chicago...I always love learning something new...

1.Pastoral Artisan - Greg O'Neil one of the owners sent out a questionnaire to customers and he listened to the feedback. Pastoral was always good about wine tastings and cheese samplings but he has stepped up the schedule. His is a great email list to get on to, he has great relationships with a lot of fabulous artisanl cheese producers in the area, you will always learn something and you will taste some great cheese. And Pastoral now has 3 locations, Lake st in the loop, the French Market at the Ogilvie Center and in Lakeview on Broadway. All 3 locations make sandwiches "to die for", really!

2. LUSH wine and spirits - Lushians as I call them are serious about wine but they also are serious about having fun while learning about wine. LUSH has 3 locations, West Chicago, South Halstead and Roscoe village, I just wish there was a LUSH near me in Streeterville. They are really active about havings tastings and hosting events where you have fun and learn about wine at the same time and they care about quality, value and are really supportive of the sustainable, local food community in I said..I WISH there was a LUSH near me(Streeterville, Goldcoast,Old Town??)...r u listening LUSHIES???

3. House of Glunz - Speaking of Old Town, when I first moved to Chicago after being a NYC whipper snapper, I saw House of Glunz and thought what is it. Little did I know that Barbara GLunz is one of the most supportive women in terms of all things culinary and artisanal in Chicago. Get on the House of Glunz email list. I have not been able to make many of their wine tastings but my most memorable was hearing Nicolas Joly speak and taste his wine, he is considered one of the founders of biodynamism in wine. Hearing him speak to me, was music to my ears and after bicycling through the Dordogne and bicycling through Burgundy his whole point of terroir and the elements that contribute to the wine made so much sense, although I will totally admit, in a world where it is very hard to be authentic and true to oneself and sustainable financially, Joly's philosophy goes to the extreme. But I highly recommend getting on House of Glunz email list because every event they hold is a quality event.

4. The Green City Market - I coudl go on and on about the Green City Market, but I can only say go check it out for yourself. I am just in artisanal and local heaven when I go, so many vegetable, in the summer I challenge myself to learn about a new vegetable a week, all the cheese, bread, and meats,,,,,Go, go, much to taste and learn...GO....ANd have a shot of TinyGreens wheat grass while you are there!!!

5. Dirk's Fish - If you want to learn about fish, taste fish, go to Dirk's fish and the homemade soups his wife makes are incredible. Dirk's is another newsletter you will be happy to get. So many stores and companies are trying to capture our names to send emails some even to our cell phones. Dirk's newsletter is one you will be happy to get. As much as Chicago is the city of Big Shoulders and the basis for The Jungle...Fish and the issue of sustainability is huge and a subject I think a lot of people forget about. Go to Dirk's on CLybourne on a Saturdya afternoon, you will be able to taste fish, pick up a recipe and for me, perhaps, lose my phobia about cooking fish. Dirk's has cooking classes and events to checkout as well!!!!

6. Logan Square Kitchen - It is my understanding, part of the founding of LSK was to help tiny, tiny, artisanl producers have a place to cook. Now LSK is supporting them by having a pastry market once or twice a month. Another place to GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That is all I can say, go to their website, check it out, read and you will see why you should go.

7. Nacional 27 - Adam Seger at NZ27 hosts cocktail classes primarily focusing on Farm to Bar products. After one of his clasees, you will never slug down a cocktail again and you will under the difference and quality of a real cocktail versus a drink. His classes helped me to understand why cocktails should be sipped and slowly, and it is just no the expense or the alcohol but a respect for the ingredients and the care that goes into making not just a good cocktail but a great one!!!!

8. Uncommon Ground - I can't forget Uncommon Ground. Helen and Mike Cameron constantly have events going on and great music!!! The biggest draw for me are the Green Room sessions they sponsor once a month focused on a them within the green world, UC is also a great venue for music that I REALLY need to take more advantage of!!!

9. Feast and Goddess and Grocer- Debbie Sharpe proprietor of Feast and Goddess and Grocer offers wine tastings the third Wednesday of every month and for $20 dollars you can have a one on one with these small distributors of low yield, organic wines. It is a great place to ask stupid questions all you want and to learn, I went last month and wish I had brought a larger budget with me to buy wines.

10. Green Drinks - Foresight Design coordinates ahost of prgrams focused on networking and fostering ideas and businesses focused on sustainability in Chicago. His email list is a great one to get on.

And there are so many other places in the suburbs, like The Olive Tap, that is focused on educating the customer on delectable condiments and Chicago based businesses like The Spice House that I love to stop into and smell and look and sniff. SO many great places to go, so little time..,,ugh,,,,,