December 9, 2018

Amazon Basics Electric Kettle

If you need an under $20 gift for someone, let me recommend the small, but mighty Amazon Basics Electric Kettle with a one liter capacity.

While staying at the home of a host French dentist in Paris last fall, I fell in love with an appliance that boils water in about a minute. At home, I had been doing water for tea the old-fashioned way over a gas flame. How last century!

Lo and behold, Amazon has been featuring a mini-version of this little work horse for the low price of $15.29. I paid $17 and some change so the price has actually gone down. If you are an Amazon Prime member, the shipping is free.

My favorite feature is that the appliance shuts off when the water reaches a boiling point. No more scorched tea pots for the absent-minded. Guilty.

As I said, this makes the perfect little gift for a person you like. Which may be YOU.

https://www.amazon.com/AmazonBasics-Stainless-Steel-Electric-Kettle/dp/B072DWYBL7/ref=sr_1_4?s=kitchen&ie=UTF8&qid=1544213506&sr=1-4&keywords=amazon+basic+electric+kettle

Sweeteners in your meat? Sugar-free bacon and chicken sausage

I decided to get serious about nosing out added sugar in my food. Imagine my surprise when I read the ingredients of most breakfast meats. Almost all bacon and sausage products list “sugar ” or “cane sugar” as part of their recipes. After reading lots of very fine print, I came up with four options that list no form of sugar.

Welllshire makes a Sugar Free Dry Rubbed All Natural Sliced Uncured Bacon which they state is made from pork raised without antibiotics, fed a vegetarian diet, contains no celery powder, is gluten-free and has 25% less sodium. After tasting the bacon, I do not miss the sugar or the lower sodium. Black pepper, fenugreek, nutmeg, white pepper, mace, allspice and sea salt make up the ingredient list. The package has an eye-catching sticker that says “Paleo Friendly – Eat like a caveman!” Count me in.

Wellshire also makes a turkey bacon that also sports the Paleo-friendly label. The package states that the turkey bacon is sliced, uncured turkey thighs that are chopped and formed, 95% fat free, 6 grams of protein and has 0 trans fat and 0 total carbs. Celery powder, paprika, white pepper, onion powder and sea salt make up the list of ingredients. To be honest, regular bacon is still my big treat, but this turkey bacon is pretty darn good while being relatively healthy.

Amylu is one of my favorite chicken sausage brands but after close scrutiny of ingredients, I could find only one version from that company that had no sweeteners. Gourmet Chorizo has chicken, Jalapeño peppers, cilantro, vinegar, rosemary extract, onions, kosher salt, paprika and garlic in a lamb casing. The package states that the product is free of pork or gluten. The Amylu chicken is raised with vegetarian feed, no antibiotics and no hormones. These sausages have a real kick so this might not be a breakfast choice for those who want a gentle first meal. In opposition, I say, “Wake up my taste buds, Amylu with your Gourmet Chorizo Chicken Sausage!”

Applegate Organics, another player in the healthy meat category likewise had very few breakfast meat options that did not contain sugar. The Fire Roasted Red Pepper Chicago Sausage met that requirement with organic chicken, organic red peppers, jalapeño peppers, organic vinegar, baking soda, organic paprika, organic garlic and sea salt listed as ingredients. Not quite as spicy as the Amylu chorizo sausage, this might be an option for more delicate stomaches.

Most people have toast, dry breakfast cereal, bagels, waffles, pancakes or sweet rolls for breakfast, but protein and fat are what keep me going throughout the morning. But that, my friend, is another complicated topic. Pass me the bacon or sausage in the morning, please.

Chicago Grind in Andersonville

A favorite coffee bar hangout in the Andersonville neighborhood is Chicago Grind, at Berwyn and Broadway, featuring coffees and teas from Metric Coffee Roasters and Benjamin Tea.

Husband and wife team, Reem and Jim Dababneh are frequently behind the cash register and food counter as they fill orders for beverages, pastries and savory food items. My favorite meal option is the vegan quinoa kale salad with nuts, cranberries and red peppers. They have even brought the “to-go” order outside when I have my dog.

The artisanal flatbread sandwiches have been top notch with gluten-free options available. Gourmet salads are another meal option, along with all sorts of enlightened treats from Maier Bakery, Alliance Patisserie and the gluten-free Defloured Bakery.

The Dababnehs are also owners of the very successful Pizzeria Aroma, just east near the Berwyn el stop. They will be moving that restaurant to another spot in the ‘hood, so I will keep you posted.

Chicago Grind is a handy spot for business meetings, lunches, breakfasts on the run or casual beverage breaks in the outdoor cafe. That is if it ever warms up enough to sit at sidewalk tables again!

http://www.chicagogrind.com/

Las Vegas Downtown restaurants: Eureka, Le Thai, PublicUs

A month-old restaurant called Eureka (part of a western chain) in downtown Las Vegas got my business twice this past week. Winning appetizers included Lollipop Corn Dogs and Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Peanuts. Sesame Teriyaki Salmon with black rice was very satisfying with Grilled Chicken Tacos and Fried Chicken Sliders pleasing other palates in my party.

A second visit rang my bell with a Protein Chopped Salad of quinoa, sunflower seeds, roasted beets, beans and feta drizzled with an oregano mustard vinaigrette. If I lived in Vegas, this would be a weekly menu item for me. Crispy sweet potato fries were slightly marred by a too-sweet cinnamon sugar glaze. House-made Ginger-Lime Sodas were a refreshing accompaniment to the meal. I will be brave next time and order either Charcoal Lemonade or Turmeric Nectar. The Osso Bucco Bites looked tempting, too.

http://eurekarestaurantgroup.com/blog/locations/las-vegas/

You wouldn’t expect excellent Thai food in Las Vegas and especially not in the touristic downtown area, but Le Thai is serving authentic and tasty food in its Fremont Street location. Green, red and panang curry dishes were all top notch accompanied with a cooling Thai-style chicken salad. Future visits will have to include the signature waterfall sauce and chef Dan Coughlin’s signature 3-color curry.

http://lethaivegas.com/

Located in the Fremont East district of downtown Las Vegas is PublicUs, a bustling coffee bar with delicious and healthy eating options. I had a savory salad with quinoa, goat cheese, hummus and vegetables. (Yes, quinoa seems to be my current menu choice these days.)

The menu is heavy on meat and fish as well as vegetarian options. The baked goods and desserts look delectable. A gigantic chocolate chip cookie tempted my sister at check-out which she ate with great relish. Prices were a bit high, but the ingredient quality and inventive recipes seem to make the expense worth it. There are outdoor and indoor seating options in this hipster outpost. Waits can be a bit long for food orders.

http://www.publicuslv.com/

These restaurants come highly recommended and go on the list to try on my next visit to Vegas: Cornish Pasty Company and Esther’s Kitchen in the downtown area along with Bavette’s Steakhouse & Bar at the Monte Carlo Casino on the Strip.

Healthworks Cacao Powder

My current vice is Healthworks cacao powder (ordered online from Amazon) which I have used in some surprising ways. Yes, it has caffeine, but I find if you mix it with healthy carbs or protein, it seems to mitigate that “coffee jag” feeling.

One of my breakfast favorites is McCann’s Steel Cut Oats (from Mariano’s) with cacao powder and unthawed, frozen organic cherries mixed warm into the cooked oatmeal. I steam the oatmeal in a vegetable/rice steamer and pop the frozen cherries (from Costco) into a toaster oven. I no longer have a microwave, but that appliance could help you unfreeze the fruit, too. You don’t have to perch over a hot stove while these foods cook.

I use 1/2 cup of dry oats, 1 cup of cherries and a tablespoon of cacao powder. When the oats are cooked and the cherries are unthawed and warm, I mix them together with the cacao powder. You will have a modest amount for two people or one generous portion if you like a big breakfast.

Another breakfast treat is a chocolate omelet. I mix 1/2 cup of egg whites with a tablespoon of cocoa, 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence and 5 drops of stevia. My current favorite is Sweet Drops English Toffee by SweetLeaf. If this sounds strange, think of it as breakfast, caffeine and dessert, all in one.

I have even started making my own sugar-free, dairy-free chocolate using cacao butter, cacao powder and stevia. My method for making chocolate will be in a future article.

Does anyone have a sugar-free, dairy-free mole recipe? Imagine chili with chocolate. My taste buds are already dancing!

Please send me any of your ideas for using cacao or cocoa powder in recipes. Signing off, fellow chocoholics.

Farmer’s Fridge for Healthy Food on the Run

At O’Hare airport, I was trudging past the usual fast food concerns with hunger pangs lowering my food selectivity. All at once, I caught sight of an automated food kiosk called Farmer’s Fridge in the American terminal. The bright green colors immediately made me think of fresh and possibly healthy food. Jackpot!

I had brought my own vegetables (don’t ask), so all I needed were some protein sources. Peppered hard-boiled eggs and chicken breast came in cute little hard plastic jars that popped out of the machine after I easily paid by debit card. I also bought a snack with chocolate covered fruit and nuts. Yum!

Some of the larger jars contained veritable full meals with colorful layered ingredients. I plan to check out salads like the Peach Caprese with basil couscous, romaine lettuce, peaches, yellow tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, spinach, pine nuts and balsamic vinaigrette, or the North Napa salad with cabbage, mixed greens, grapes, cucumber, chickpeas, avocado, feta cheese, pistachios, dried cherries and vinaigrette.

Heartier dishes like Soba noodles and Salmon Nicoise also appear on the menu. One can opt for protein snacks like Phoenix Bean Tofu or the afore-mentioned chicken or hard-boiled eggs. You can also add various flavors of LaCroix water as one’s beverage.

Breakfast options include almond butter oatmeal, Greek yogurt and granola along with pineapple coconut chia pudding.

The kiosks are refilled every morning with unsold food donated to zero percent, an organization that disperses unused products to local food pantries. There is also a slot on the machines to recycle empty jars.

Farmer’s Fridge food kiosks can be found at venues like McCormick Place, Willis Tower, The Rookery, Revival Food Hall, Block 37, the Merchandise Mart, Northbrook Court and at various hospitals and educational venues. Some kiosks have 24-hour access. For a more complete list, go to: http://www.farmersfridge.com/location

All ingredients, calories and nutritional facts are viewable on the kiosk screen so you can make intelligent healthy food choices.

If you live outside of the Chicago area, you may want to petition the Farmer’s Fridge to add a kiosk to your frequent haunts. Your taste buds and waist line will thank you!
http://www.farmersfridge.com/