June 21, 2018

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.

Defloured, baking gluten-free goodies for Chicago & Milwaukee

My dog Ralph turned me onto a bakery called Defloured. On walks, he would bee-line to this storefront and routinely use his paw to knock on their front door. Johanna, the baker/owner has become one of his favorite neighborhood friends, due in no small part to the treats he receives from her and her staff.

Defloured is a gluten-free bakery and creates sweet treats that suit many restricted diets. These are not your cardboard tasting health foods, but delectable brownies, bars, cakes, cupcakes, cookies and whoopie pies.

Not only do they sell delicious products from their Andersonville shop, but their baked goods are sold at some of the more discerning coffee bars, grocery stores (Whole Foods) and restaurants in Chicago and Milwaukee.

They also create custom cakes for events and cookie or bar trays for parties. Not only can they do gluten-free bar and cookie trays, but Defloured also can do vegan or dairy-free cookie trays.

Ralph and I both agree that this bakery deserves a big high-five paw up.

http://deflouredbakery.com/

Zumbo’s Just Desserts on Netflix

With the Great British Baking Show on hiatus, Netflix has added an Aussie baking show called Zumbo’s Just Desserts. Much flashier than its British counterpart, the Zumbo set is reminiscent of Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

The season starts with twelve contestants of varying ages and both genders. Each program features a general assignment that all current contestants tackle. The two lowest scorers have to undergo a Zumbo test to create insanely complicated dessert creations. The lowest scorer of that competition is eliminated. Like other reality cooking shows, the winner is the last one standing.

The hosts are genius Australian dessertmaker Adriano Zumbo, British cook, writer and broadcaster Rachel Khoo and Gigi Falanga, their outspoken Brazilian cooking assistant.

Some viewers may not like the colorful flash, the quick camera edits and dramatic music this show embraces, but I find the program untaxing and cheery after a rough day. Non-chef that I am, Zumbo’s Just Desserts is a veritable palate-cleanser for me. Sweet indeed.

Three Arts Club Cafe in the Restoration Hardware store

I fondly remember giving a concert in the old Three Arts Club in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood. Built in 1914 to house women involved in music, painting and theater, the brick building was the architectural work of the storied Holabird & Roche firm. With sadness, I heard that the club had been sold to developers in 2007.

Much to my relief, Restoration Hardware has created a five-story emporium that has left many of the architectural details intact. The courtyard houses a delightful restaurant called the Three Arts Cafe which kept the old fountain and features an all-weather glass ceiling that allows diners to be bathed in sunlight.

The food is as impressive as the setting with a curated menu including “seasonal ingredient-driven” recipes. The shaved vegetable salad was beautiful to look at and to eat with brightly colored root vegetables and baby greens dressed with finely chopped pecans and cider vinaigrette. For sheer gluttony, I ordered a side of bacon which was the thick-cut kind found in British cuisine. My luncheon partner ordered a bacon club sandwich which she endorsed by eating every morsel.

The menu is small but there are several items that entice me to make return visits such as the Truffled Grilled Cheese sandwich, the slow roasted chicken with garlic confit and the house-made chocolate chip cookies served warm out of the oven.

After lunch, we strolled the five floors of rooms decorated with Restoration Hardware furniture, lighting fixtures, accessories, bedding and even some articles of clothing. The top floor has two outdoor terraces which must be divine in the warmer months. The main floor has a Three Arts Club Pantry that sells scrumptious looking donuts and hot beverages.

A visit to this historic building is like a mini-vacation with excellent food and drink sampled before or after one peruses the five floors of tastefully decorated display rooms. I’m wondering if they would let me move in?

3artsclubcafe.com

La Quercia Prosciutto Americano

If you like Prosciutto di Parma, you may want to try La Quercia, a cured pork meat product handcrafted in Iowa and billed as Prosciutto Americano.
The packaging proclaims that no nitrates or nitrites have been added, only those that occur naturally with sea salt. The pigs were raised without hormones or antibiotics on the Norwalk, Iowa farm of Herb and Kathy Eckhouse.

I found my 3 ounce package of the thinly sliced aged ham at the local Mariano’s in the deli case with salami and other refrigerated meat. Try wrapping a prosciutto slice around a Persian pickle or a wedge of ripe cantaloupe. Yum!

Consult La Quercia’s web site to find out if their Prosciutto Americano is sold at a grocery store near you. Iowa gives Parma a run for its money.

www.laquercia.us

Orange food binge

Imagine my surprise when unloading my grocery bag recently, I discovered that I had purchased only foods that were orange. And it wasn’t even Halloween.

First out of my bag were the bunches of carrots with long, slender shapes that oven-roast particularly well with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

My sack also contained organic yams and red garnet sweet potatoes which still looked orange when cooked. Instead of butter or sour cream, try hummus or salsa as the filling. Mariano’s has also started carrying thinly sliced sweet potatoes so you can easily make your own baked chips. 

Moving to my citrus selection, I had one mandarin satsuma orange, a blood orange, a Murcott mandarin, a couple of clementines, a Cara Cara navel orange and my favorite orange, the Mineola. Oh, yes, I also had a small bag of kumquats with edible peels. For some reason, I find toasted cashews to be the perfect accompaniment for all of these citrus beauties.

And then there were my two Ataulfo (or Manila) mangos which are much easier to eat now that I have my very own mango-slicer.

There had been a sale on orange peppers at Mariano’s so they were also there in my produce array.

I ended with a can of organic pumpkin puree which is always welcome in my cupboard. Whip a half cup into whole eggs or egg whites, plus sweetener and cinnamon, scramble them and you have dish that could be either breakfast or dessert.

Was I filling a vitamin deficiency or merely attracted to the vibrant color orange? Perhaps I will intentionally select all red or purple foods next shopping expedition. Eat the rainbow, indeed.