Posts Tagged ‘food’

Day 36 – Value Eating on 03/18/2010

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

Picked up my produce box yesterday @ Green Grocer Chicago. Bananas! Guess it is time to try this blender/food processor some more on the quest for the perfect green smoothie…
My fridge sports kale and watercress, beats and turnips, yams and potatoes, white cabbage… what will go best with bananas & apples? I choose the kale. Chopped it up a bit, before putting it into the blender (the whole bunch, yeah, today is a healthy day!), added a banana and a small apple. Was ok. Nothing to be excited about, but drinkable. As in previous occasions, I started to be hungry really fast. Worse, I felt cold, as if I had no energy….

So 2 hours after my Green Smothie Bfast I was happily chopping veggies at the stove (warmth!) for lunch. I quickly sautéed ¼ white organic local cabbage with 1 small organic fennel (bulb & greens) in some olive oil and A LOT of chili pepper (some more warmth!!) . Enjoyed that with a sprinkle of salt on Fabio’s & Nicoletta’s Fragrance Rice (from The Scrumptious Pantry). Mmmhhh… so much better than the green smoothie. The energy I got from this dish kept me going until 9pm when I started nibbling on a cheese plate and two slices of bread with a glass of biodynamic wine from my friend Franz Loacker’s estate in Montalcino, Italy (where the Brunello comes from. But, no, I was not sipping Brunello all by myself in front of the PC).
Happy me. All healthy, nourishing food today!

Bfast: kale 1.50$, apple small 40c, banana 39c = 2.29$
Lunch: cabbage 35c, fennel small 40c, chili flakes 10c, rice 60c, olive oil 25c= 1.70$ (03/19/10 - correction: these veggies fed me over two servings -1.15$)
Dinner: 2 slices organic artisan bread 24c, nibbles of Wisconsin blue cheese, beer&mustard cheese from the UK and some camembert 2$. 1 glass Loacker Rosso di Montalcino 3.5$ =5.74$


Back to Value Eating – Finally!

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

Finally up back home and to a normal lifestyle. Which means I can prepare my food – and lots of fresh stuff – yeah! Honestly, these two weeks of traveling have really tired me out. I love going to really nice restaurants and I love checking out the street food in places I visit. But between too much coffee at conferences and trade shows and very restricted food choices at the airport, these two weeks were not much fun eating wise.
Two experiences stand out though and I do not want to do them unjustice: The Localicous event at the FamilyFarmed Expo in Chicago was what it says it is: delicious local food prepared by great Chicago restaurants. So many great taste experiences! Thanks to all the farmers & Chefs – and the team of the FamilyFarmedExpo – for their hard work!
Second food memorable food experience was my BBQ beef sandwich off one of these “gourmet eateries” than come on four wheels and are all over Los Angeles. Although I would have never chosen a BBQ beef sandwich without having the truck sitting curbside at the trade show. It was yummy though and the bread was a really perfect crispy baguette. That is when you know you are in good hands. The little details, like in this case the bread. Too bad that trucks like that do not have a liquor license. Lunch or not lunch, a beer would have been great with the sandwich!
What I really wonder about though is: who decided that travelers do not have a right to healthy food at airports? Who manages those concessions? Are they given to the winners of the contest for greasiest, fattiest, most disgusting food? Get local cafes using local ingredients and cooking local snacks into airports! Now, that would be something!

Ok, now finally back to Value Eating!!

Day 32 – Value Eating on 02/23/2010

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Today was easy... enjoying leftovers!!

But before we indulge in some more Sauerkraut, my breakfast was a HUGE SLICE of "Mohnstriezel" from an Austrian Bakery on Clark Street. It is a sweet bread, yeast dough based, that has poppy seeds and sugar mixed in. I almost fell over backwards when I tasted it. JUST LIKE IN VIENNA. My mum would kill for a taste of this bread! It is just as it should be, a great Austrian baking tradition kept alive in Chicago! Pensa te!! I would lie if I knew how much my friend had spent on this Striezel, and I have no intentions to inquire, after all, it was her hostess' gift. I guess though if we assume 60c for the slice I enjoyed we should be save. So, once more, 1.10$ for brunch expenditures (yes, I had a cappuccino. This coffee thing is terrible. Once I know I have it in my fridge, that darn appliance calls my name. That is why I should not have coffee in the house (and cheese, while we are at it).

Afternoon snack: a red beet pear smoothie. Ha! Now here is a story! After waiting over two weeks for some neighbor who accidentally signed for my super-duper blender-food processor to return that precious appliance to me, it finally arrived yesterday. I had been inspired to invest in a blender after reading a bit about the raw diet and how it is supposed to be good for you. As you most probably have found out by now, I like my food cooked. Spiced up. Transformed. Elevated. Not necessarily raw. But (there is always a but), I did totally understand the logic behind all of this raw eating. It makes sense, if you look at the data and studies and what not. So I figured, if I could get me to eat some more raw stuff all shredded together into a veggie&fruit smoothie that might be the solution? We will see in the days to come, but my red beet (2 small beets) and pear (1 pear) smoothie was really yummy. I also added some of the beet's leaves and stems which added a nice texture to the whole thing. The chopped stems gave me the impression of nuts. Now do not ask me how my brain made the connection between beet stems and nuts, but I can assure you, that was absolutely the association I had. 0.69c beets + 0.79c pear = 1.48$ in three servings of which one was stored away for tomorrow.

Dinner was a dumpling/kraut/pork loin leftover serving for approx. 2$

Total Food Cost for Today: 4.08$

Day 29 – Value Eating on 02/20/2010

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

Thursday, Friday and Saturday are very much on-the-road days for me. Should you decide to think of me one of those days, picture me in a grocery store talking food with customers and sampling out The Scrumptious Pantry products. I totally love these events. Honestly, I love talking food, cooking food, sampling food (yeah, that comes as a surprise to you, right?), so I am having tons of fun when I am doing in store presentations. The best thing: I will eventually bring home some delicious cheeses, meats or other goodies I discovered in the store.

But eating wise, it is a bit tricky. I always think I might be missing something when I take a longer break for lunch, so I prefer to hide a sandwich somewhere around my table that I can take a bite from when no one is close. Now that better be a sandwich without too many layers or loose ingredients – so I perfected the frittata sandwich for these occasions. A frittata (Italian omelette) gives me a good boost of energy cause of the protein, it is easy to eat and can be prepared the day before. I am usually whipping up my next day frittata while I am cooking dinner. At least there is no need to clean dishes in the morning before dashing out to whatever store I am headed to. So today was the day of the Spinach stems – sautéed in olive oil and with a pinch of Roberta’s herbed Roasting & Grilling Salt it found its place in a two happy egg frittata in a multigrain roll made a delightful brunch. (1+0.05+0.25+0.67+0.1)= 2.07$

For dinner, I had a little of Carlo’s Durum Wheat Pasta from The Scrumptious Pantry left over which I had not used for
sampling, so I sexed that one up with the last organic red bell peppers from my Green Grocer organic box, a small organic carrot and a dash of Cosimo’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Roberta’s salt (both from The Scrumptious Pantry) to become an easy-to-make-pasta salad. (0.7+0.69+ 0.2+0.4+0.05 =2.04$

Total Food Cost for Today: 4.11$

Day 27 – Value Eating on 02/18/2010

Friday, February 19th, 2010

When I have too much on my mind, I desert to the kitchen. “Cooking relaxes me” is a quote I have heard often. I wonder why that is the case? Does cooking remind you of your childhood days, the smell of home cooked meals dancing through the house? Or is it the warmth of the kitchen stove and oven that makes one feel protected? Or is it the creative part? The fact that you have to concentrate on getting things right? The feeling of achieving something? It would be interesting to see if there is any research on this issue…. Anyways, I love cooking to get my mind of things, and I love baking. So yesterday’s evening ended with me baking a very simple pear cake: 2 sticks of butter, ½ lb. cane sugar, 4 eggs, a tsp. baking powder, a tsp. cinnamon and a little less than a lb. of whole wheat flour. One sliced pear and 45 min later I had my all-organic cake that makes 12 nice big pieces for total cost of 7.24$, that is ca. 60c a piece. Not only is it much cheaper than most of the mass-produced “cakes” in the various café chains, it actually tastes like real food. It certainly made a great breakfast with a glass of Castle Rock Farm’s milk (50c). = 1.10$

Late morning snack was an organic blood orange for 50c.

For lunch I wanted to stay on the light side, cause I had guests coming for dinner and I wanted to be hungry! Nothing worse than a dinner party where no one is eating, right? The quintessence of food is to enjoy company and spend time together. So better have a healthy appetite (which does not mean one has to be starved). I enjoyed another of the yummy multigrain rolls from Cook Au Vin with a simple salad of three shredded carrots (3x20c) and 1 shredded beet (60c) = 1.30$.

As often, I was only drinking hot water. I like tea in between meals, but with my food I like plain tasting drinks. As you can guess, I am not the girl that drinks sodas with her food. Wine is another story, as it allows you to elevate the taste of the food. Just as you can ruin a great meal with the wrong wine (and a great wine with the wrong food). Often, I am asked what my favorite wine is. In my opinion, there is no such thing. Almost every wine has a perfect food match out there, waiting to create a brilliant unison. It is the STYLE of wine, that I might personally disagree with (think over-oaked, jam-like wines that do not speak of the terroir in which the vines were grown, but of some new & fancy winemaking technique in the laboratory (oops, did I just write that? Of course, I meant to say “cellar” Better drink a great wine once in a while than something cheap)….

Anyways, dinner was a delicious fish that was local (fished in Lake Superior). Shoot me, but I forgot the name. Will call Dirk’s Fish tomorrow and find out (also because my dinner guests loved it and want to know what they ate). I briefly turned the fillets in a mix of organic flour and Roberta’s “insanely aromatic” (quoting Daily Candy here) Roasting & Grilling salt. Off it went to be briefly pan-seared in olive oil to form a delicious crust. As a side I had prepared a rice pilaf with Fabio’s & Nicoletta’s Fragrance rice, broccoli, slithered almonds, a pinch of chili peppers and some onion. Finished off with a drizzle of Cosimo’s Extra-Virgin Olive Oil premium blend it was perfect (btw, I paired it with a Chardonnay from a small vineyard in California called Girasole). Cost for one person (all sustainable/organic ingredients): 2$ (fish), 0.2$ (flour, roasting & grilling salt, EVOO), almonds (0.13$), 0.8c (rice), broccoli (0.18c – it was a lot of broccoli, but it was also really inexpensive when I bought it on sale at the Green Grocer: 99c a bunch!), 0.06c for spices, 0.15 for finishing oil = 3.51$. The wine was 3.5$ per person.

For dessert, I served ½ slice of the pear cake topped off with a tablespoon of organic greek style yoghurt in which I had blended a hint of cinnamon. Drizzled with a teaspoon of local honey and sprinkled with roasted pumpkin seed it was the perfect finishing to a perfect dinner (which, as already pointed out in other posts, does rely as much on the company and conversation as it does on the quality of the food!) = 0.3$ (cake), 0.1$ (yoghurt & cinnamon), 0.1$ (honey), 0.15$ pumpkin seeds = 0.65$

Total Food Cost for a Very Happy Day of Eating: 10.56$ including wine

Day 26 – Value Eating on 02/17/2010

Friday, February 19th, 2010

For Brunch I indulged in an omelette made of two happy eggs (67c), some great mushrooms from River Valley Farms (1.5$) that went just perfect with one of the Cook au Vin multigrain roll (10c) = 2.27$

Although after watching Julia Child’s omelette session just now (, I wonder if I was really doing a frittata? Very entertaining video to watch, I wish I would have been around to see her cooking shows every week!

In the afternoon I snacked on an organic bell pepper (from Mexico), which was among the other goodies in the produce box the Green Grocer provides his customers with. I cannot wait for spring to come to have some more local produce! The demand for local root veggies has been so huge this year, that most farmers are out. Although one small farm told me she had put aside more than 25 tons (!) of root veggies in October! I am very impressed to say the least with the spirit of Chicago locavores! 0.69$
Dinner finally was ½ Red hen demi-baguette (35c) with Wisconsin blue cheese (31c) and a spinach salad (1$): a bunch of spinach without the stems – which I kept for later use… never throw anything away, these stems will be tender once they are sautéed, so no need to waste food! They will be a great base for another frittata/omelette soon! Anyways, I was lucky to have some homemade vinegar around to finish off the spinach. No salt or pepper… I like the spinach taste to fully come through = 1.66$

Total Food Cost For The Day: 4.62$

Day 22 – Value Eating on 02/13/2010

Monday, February 15th, 2010

A day before Valentines, and the Logan Square Kitchen on Milwaukee has had the best idea ever – a pastry market! Chicago’s Sweet Artisans showcased their talent from 10am to 3pm: cakes, pastries, chocolates, truffles, jams… It sounded too good to be true, so I took my friend from Italy there to indulge in all things sweet. Knowing the local food culture is so important in order to get to know a city! We arrived at 10.15am – 15min after opening, and the space was jammed. What a success for the Logan Square Kitchen Crew! Congrats! Anyway, for breakfast I bought a yummy sticky cake from Floriole Bakery (hmmm.. pecans!) and a big pot of freshly brewed Metropolis Coffee. Total cost: 4$

I skipped lunch, cause I was giving a Valentine’s cooking demonstration at the Green Grocer on Grand Avenue and I was stuffed just looking at all of the food I was preparing.

For dinner, I had already prepared The Scrumptious Pantry’s “Love Apple” pasta sauce with Roberta’s Sun-Dried Tomato Spread and Guido’s Balsamic which we enjoyed on a steaming plate of Carlo’s Pasta (tomato based sauces are always better when they had a chance to sit for at least a couple of hours, better still a night!). Ingredients for four servings: organic canned tomatoes: 2.49$, 2 tbsp. of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (0.5$), an organic garlic clove (0.01c), 1 tbsp. of Roberta’s Sun Dried Tomato Spread (1.3$), a sprinkle of dried hot chili peppers (0.03c$) and a tablespoon of Guido’s Balsamic Dressing Sauce (1$): 3.34$ p. person served on Carlo’s Durum Wheat Pasta from The Scrumptious Pantry.

For dessert we sliced up an organic apple (0.8$) and enjoyed some of the Chocolate Pub Bark from Rich Chocolates (1$), hence 0.9$ per person.

Total Food Cost For Today: 8.24$

Day 19 – Value Eating on 02/10/2010

Friday, February 12th, 2010

We got like a lot of snow outside. Tons of it. I live in a ground level apartment, so all I see when I look out of the window is white. Which makes me want to start my day with something warm and comforting, so – what a surprise!- brunch was Fabio’s & Nicoletta’s Polenta from The Scrumptious Pantry, a tablespoon of the organic local honey and an organic apple (80c +15c +28c = 1.23$)

Lunch were two slices of artisan bread which I toasted and enjoyed with some of the great French pepper pate’ I had bought at Schaefer’s in Skokie. (60c +54c = 1.14$)

For Dinner I got lucky. Chicago’s best pasta home cook was celebrating her birthday with a great selection of cheeses and homemade ravioli… Oh what wonders she did! Celery ravioli topped with sautéed mushrooms were really yummy, but the raviolis filled with roasted beets & ricotta were to die for – especially after tossed in a sauce of melted raw butter, Guido’s Balsamic Dressing from The Scrumptious Pantry and a little goat cheese. So perfect! And the best proof that enjoying your food in company is so much more fulfilling. You eat slowly, enjoy every bite, a nibble here, a taste there - celebrate food! So much better than stuffing your face with some mediocre TV dinner. How to price that dinner, I honestly have no idea. Would it be fair to put down 10$ given all the cheeses and meats and wine?

Total Food Cost for Today: 12.37$

Food Person of the Decade?

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

I have been thinking about this for a while now. You remember, like six weeks ago? New decade, big thing, Person’s of the year and the decade all around. Internet people, business people, politicians. Even wine person of the decade. No food person – at least I did not come across one.

Who are the people that left a significant mark on our food culture in the past ten years?

The TV/Celebrity Chef? We certainly had a lot more of chefs on TV, talking about food, preparing food, showing the average viewer how to cook up a storm or broil a simple roast. Anthony Bourdain traveled around the world, and the couch potato traveled with him. Gordon Ramsey had short-tempered outbursts on TV screens on both sides of the Atlantic. Yep, they were everywhere, but rather than taking the inspiration to their home kitchens, viewers settled in their sofas, watching Celebrity Chefs as you watched the Gladiators in the Roman circus. Only that in Roman time the snack food served was certainly better than the chips, dips, and drinks coming with today’s TV evenings. If anything, these Celebrity Chef’s provided great entertainment, but their impact on revitalizing our food culture is very questionable to me. So, out goes the Celebrity Chef.

And in steps – a first Lady and her garden. How can someone become a food person of a decade if she was only in the public eye for eleven months of it, you ask? Well, if you can win the noble peace price after nine months, why not food person of the decade after eleven? The public stunt of an organic garden in the White House was certainly a masterpiece to get food on the political agenda. But only creating a forum is not yet enough for winning this noble title, cause as all things politics it is easy to announce a vision and much more difficult to pull it through. Especially in this complex system of big industries, lobbyists and political deals. I surely hope we will see Michelle Obama involved in education and actions towards better food supply for years to come, so maybe in 2020?

So how about all those bloggers and writers that cooked their heart out for a year and taking us along on their journey: eating locally, growing their own food, grilling the roadkill as a Sunday roast: Barbara Kingsolver (“Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”), Alisa Smith & J.B. MacKinnon (“Plenty”), Gary Paul Nabhan (“Coming home to eat”). Certainly admirable projects they pulled off and great learnings involved for bystanders looking on. These projects were fueled by a lot of effort, but although I admire them and personally have had great take-aways from their books, I wonder if their accounts have not scared the biggest part of the population. If you do not happen to be a writer by profession, with the current day job of writing a book about your experience, spending a day driving through the countryside looking for locally grown wheat does not sound very feasible to most of us. Which might result in de-motivation rather than the revolutionary spirit of “we can change our food culture”. In light of this doubt, the blogging localvore is not receiving this decade’s award, although I acknowledge that their efforts might have an important impact when discussing and shaping the supply-side of REAL FOOD FROM REAL PEOPLE. But that will have to be evaluated in 2020.

Another spokesperson for real food is journalist Michael Pollan. With his books he has been going full circle. He clearly analyzed the problems we are facing when it comes to food production and presents them in a way everyone can understand. Not only has been an advocate for changes in the way we produce our food, he has stimulated consumers to make fast changes to how they were eating, giving them easy and simple indications to follow. His last book “Food Rules” is certainly a great tool for the consumer needing some guidance and a driver for changes in our food culture. All these achievements make him almost the Food Person of the Decade.

The Food Person of the Decade in my opinion is the family farmer. Whose sheer existence and daily struggle tended the fertile ground on which all other ideas can now grow. It is the family farmer that has not given in to big agribusiness, that stood tall on his land and defended real food. Without them manning the fortress of real agriculture over the last decades - and especially the last one if we consider all the developments like GMO etc – no White House garden would have been possible. Michael Pollan would not have had no one to write about, and the blogging localvores would have starved a couple of weeks into their projects.

The Food Person of the Decade is the family farmer: the Barbaras & Fabios, Carlos, Martys & Krises, the Veras and Vickis, just to name a few. Their hard work, their sweat, their risk taking, their crop planning, them in their fields and on their pastures for 18 hours a day, 7 days a week, on Sundays, holidays, birthdays – they are what keeps our society alive. It is the family farmer that brings taste to our kitchens, in restaurants and homes. It is the family farmer that does the magic of awakening tastebuds. I am grateful that I am so lucky to call some of them my friends and be inspired by them.

Day 17 – Value Eating on 02/08/2010

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Today was one of those experiences that makes me wonder on what basis people choose to feed themselves. To enjoy great food or to spend little? I went to dinner to an Italian restaurant with a large group of friends and although the fixed menu sounded really good (and I was dying for some of the dishes - I was so looking forward to that dinner!), the food was very mediocre. It had nothing to do with the original recipes, and although one could forgive the “americanization” of certain recipes, they were also executed in a very soulless and tasteless fashion. I would have preferred to spend more and eat real food - or better still, cook my dinner at home: even if one buys the finest ingredients one will still spend far less than eating out. Which does not mean I am against restaurant dining per se, if the restaurant is able to create a special atmosphere and experience, I happily pay for the possibility to enjoy those. Anyway, we need to put down 25$ in today’s cost calculation for dinner.

Other than that I had a simple breakfast of Fabio’s & Nicoletta’s Polenta from The Scrumptious Pantry, with local honey and an apple (80c+15c+28c) = 1.23$ and for lunch a peanut butter – banana sandwich (bananas are officially all eaten up and no more to come till my next vacation in some exotic country…): 1.07$, taking into consideration two slices of artisan bread.

Total Food Cost For Today: 27.30$