March 28, 2017

The Great British Baking Show on Netflix

Did you notice that many American home and food shows disappeared from Netflix at the end of 2016? Scripps Networks Interactive which owns HGTV, the Food Network, the Travel channel and DIY decided they could make more money elsewhere. Search the word “house” on Netflix and not much concerning design comes up.

Food and home reality show bingers, fear not. Netflix has countered by adding a few shows produced by British TV producers such as, Escape To the Country, Grand Designs, Hidden Homes and my surprising favorite, The Great British Baking Show.

It’s no secret that I am neither a baker or a cook, but there is something very compelling about this food reality show. Much like Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians, thirteen amateur bakers compete weekly to avoid being the one sent home that episode. The one left standing at the end of the season is the winner and dubbed Star Baker.

Each show, the contestants are asked to bake everything from breadsticks, petits fours and baklava, to displays using multiple baking skills that must be artistic and highly edible. Two judges critique the culinary results: Mary, a very proper English matron who has impeccable manners and wicked baking skills along with Paul, a grey-haired, blue-eyed demon who can spot any baking flaws and points them out with acerbic precision. The proceedings are narrated by two goofy British ladies who throw in puns, foreign phrases, quips and an ever-varying pronunciation of the word “bake.”

Small wonder that I must have a snack handy while watching this show. Like my big dog drooling at our steak dinner table, the sight of all of these beautiful baked wonders gets the salivary glands pumping. Carrots and celery just will not do!

Three seasons of this show are currently available on Netflix. Paraphrasing Oliver Twist, “More, please.”

Ray and Joan, book by Lisa Napoli

The book cover features the title Ray & Joan by Lisa Napoli, but the smaller print expresses the content of this non-fiction work impeccably, “The man who made the McDonald’s fortune and the woman who gave it all away.”
We read of the initial relationship of Ray Kroc and the McDonald brothers who had a successful fast food venture in California, to the humble beginnings of Kroc’s Des Plaines version of the concept, all the way to the explosion of “golden arches” fast food franchises all over the world.

I was surprised that music played a role in the bond between Ray and his third wife, the former Mrs. Rawland Smith. The McDonald’s boss had been a working musician in the Chicago area before finding his real passion – sales. He was in the Minnesota Twin Cities on company business and saw an elegant blonde playing the piano at a fine St rezeptfreie potenzmittel viagra. Paul restaurant. Their romance was bumpy, to say the least, with her husband and an intervening marriage for Ray getting in the way of their ultimate romantic partnership.

After the death of Ray, the book loses a little of the drama, but it is fascinating to watch Joan Kroc grow into becoming a sometimes secret and passionate philanthropist. Napoli features a long list of beneficiaries of the Kroc largesse including Notre Dame, NPR and the Salvation Army.
Would that all multimillionaires were as generous as this former cocktail pianist.

Kumquats, Persimmons, Golden Kiwis & Dragonfruit

Kumquat tree

Kumquat tree

Three cheers for the availability of new fruit varieties in your local grocery stores. I just discovered kumquats, tiny orange-like citrus fruit native to Asia, which can be eaten like grapes or sliced in half for salads and desserts. Watch out for the seeds as you munch on these snacks packed with Vitamin C.  gold-kiwi-9708645
As much as I like regular Kiwis with green fruit interiors, Golden Kiwis with sweet yellow flesh are even better. The egg-shaped fruit is originally from China, but New Zealand adopted the kiwifruit as their own and started to export it to the U. S. and the world.
Keep your eye peeled for the occasional shipment of Golden Kiwis. dragon-fruit-cut

One of the oddest-looking items in the produce department is dragon fruit, technically a cactus of indeterminate origin, but generally found in tropical climates. It goes by other names such as pitahaya or Hylocereus undatus, but the curly leaves are reminiscent of dragon scales, hence the name. Cut the fruit in half and you will find an unusual white fruit interior with black edible dots that look like poppy seeds. It does not taste like anything comparable but
the slight sweetness and pudding-like consistency is perfect for a snack or dessert. hachiyapersimmon

Persimmons have been a personal favorite of mine for a few years now, but the grocery stores seem to be stocking this fruit with more regularity in the fall. The heart-shaped version is called Hachiya and can be chalky tasting before it ripens. It is best to eat them when they resemble a water balloon. Fuyus, which look like a flat tomato, are less astringent and can be eaten before they are fully ripe. I’m still looking for an Asian type called “cinnamon or chocolate persimmon” which has sweet dark brown flesh. Perhaps a visit to Argyle Street or Chinatown is in order. Who knows what other fruit delicacies I might find in an Asian grocery?

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

The culinary theme of Kitchens of the Great Midwest by author J. Ryan Stradal drew me to it first, but the structure is what made me sit up and realize that this was not your standard novel.

Each section is a food item and takes place in a different area of the Midwest. We loosely follow celebrity chef, Eva Thorvald from birth to mid-career with visits to her childhood, teen years and her twenties.  We also view her life from the vantage point of the mother who abandoned her to pursue her own career in the wine industry.

Stradal’s writing is charming but like a sophisticated meal, the different “courses” in the book are by turns bittersweet, painful, comedic and heart-warming.

The culinarily-inclined will chuckle at the descriptions of recipes and the mention of curated food stuffs.

I was hooked when the book kicked off with a chapter called Lutefisk, the dreaded Scandinavian fish entree that is foisted on many Midwesterners. Particularly funny is a section called Bars where a woman who bakes “church lady” recipes tries to compete with chefs who turn their noses up at gluten, dairy or ingredients that are not organic.

I listened to this in audio form and the narrator even got the infamous Minnesota accent down to perfection. The locales, the food and the chef heroine all conspire to entertain. Let me state that I ate no lutefisk while reading this.

Sausages by AmyLu

I just found delicious chicken sausages that use no nitrates, nitrites, MSG, preservatives or artificial ingredients and are pork-free,  gluten-free, low in fat, high in protein and low in carbs. I even found a flavor, Gourmet Chorizo that contains no sugar or dairy which can be challenging to find.

ATK Foods, the parent company features other sausage flavors such as Apple & Gouda Cheese, Sun Dried Tomato & Basil, Cranberry & Cognac and Chipotle Pepper. They also sell burgers, meatballs and old-world sausage products such as Polish sausage, Wieners, Bratwurst and Specialty Ethnic Sausages viagra rezeptfrei bestellen.

Did I mention that the company is based in Chicago? Joseph Slotkowski opened his Chicago sausage company in 1918 and it’s still going strong under third generation member, Amylu Kurzawski. You can shop for the products on-line or find the sausage and meat products in selected grocery stores. I found my Amylu edibles at Mariano’s in Chicago. Delicious!

http://www.atkfoods.com/our-brands/sausages-by-amylu

Chicago’s Merchandise Mart gets a facelift

My husband wanted me to see the $40 million in-progress transformation of Chicago’s Merchandise Mart last weekend. As you’d expect in a business operation catering to interior designers and their well-heeled clients, the Mart wanted to freshen its look by opening space both inside and looking out.

At 4.2 million gross square feet in its two city block and 25-story structure, the Merchandise Mart has bragging rights for being the second largest office building in the world (the Pentagon is in first place.)

The food court where CTA el users exit is one of the biggest transformations. Large windows now feature views of River North and the elevated train station. Comfortable seating, modern lighting and a mirrored ceiling go along nicely with food from Billy Goat Tavern or Mezza Mediterranean Grill.

Also stunning is the 50-foot wide marble staircase rising from the lobby. Red leather seat cushions make the steps another innovative place for people to congregate with a retractable 25-foot wide projection screen above the “Grand Stair.”

The second level features a lounge overlooking the Chicago River replete with a bar, couch seating, pillows and coffee tables with board games.

Another new area to the Mart is River Drive Park with umbrellas and seating arrangements overlooking the Chicago River. The project designers even included an area for food trucks to park during warm weather months.

Whether you work in the Mart or near it, this is now a destination to check out, at least once.

http://themart.com/

Canstruction: a charity sculpture event at the Mart using non-perishable food

Currently on view until September 6 is Canstruction,  a design/build event that benefits the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Using non-perishable food items, teams from the trade organization, AEC (Architecture, Engineering and Construction) construct installations in the lobby of the Merchandise Mart.

My favorites in this year’s event are The Mona Lisa (above),  an amusing take on Vincent Van Gogh’s bedroom (right) and an Olympic runner about to sprint made out of tuna cans (below).

This marks Canstruction’s tenth anniversary. If you miss the exhibit this year, put this amusing and worthy cultural event on your list for next August.


http://chicago.canstruction.org

Energetic Healing – Part 2

This is Part 2 of the topic of Energetic Healing with a brief list of treatment options in the alternative field of medicine and wellness. These thumb-nail citations are by no means comprehensive.

I am including Homeopathy in the alternative category since many medical professionals discount it. However, Europe and parts of Asia embrace this form of medicine that is, in my opinion, cost-efficient and effective for many ailments.

Homeopathy is the other side of the coin to allopathy which is the basis of much of our Western medical system. Allopathy uses opposites to address symptoms and illness. Look at a drug store shelf and you will see anti-histamines, anti-inflammatories, anti-bacterials, anti-fungals, etc. You get the picture.

Homeopathy finds substances that cause similar symptoms and then dilutes them to infinitesimal amounts. “Like cures like” was coined by homeopathy’s founder, Samuel Hahnemann.

One’s own immune system is nudged to correct the problem energetically.  I myself have used Homeopathic pellets with great success for a couple of decades. It’s possible that mental suggestion is at play, but if something seems to work, I will still keep it in my arsenal of treatment options.

Several therapies address our five senses to prime the body for healing.

Reiki, using the “laying of hands” increases the “life force energy” and moves “Ki” through blockages in the body. Massage, chiropractic, acupuncture, yoga and tai chi all operate on the concept of keeping energy flowing through blood vessels, the skeletal system, the nervous system and through both the physical and energetic body of the patient.

Sound therapy has been around for centuries. Chanting can be a form of meditation that calms the nervous system and focuses one’s attention. The use of Tibetan healing bowls have entered the lexicon of alternative treatments in the U. S.  I found this lovely 3 hour recording of Tibetan bowl music with running water on youtube. Listening for just five minutes promotes relaxation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9M_mp7Mmt34

Art, dance and music therapy get the patient involved in creation thereby stimulating a sense of well-being that may aid in healing.

Color therapy may include wearing eyeglasses in a particular color or bathing in a tub of therapeutic colored water. Green or blue will reduce stress. Yellow and orange stimulate appetite and encourage productivity.

http://www.arttherapyblog.com/online/color-psychology-psychologica-effects-of-colors/#.V78UzYVCOuE

Essential oils such as lavender, bergamot or ylang yang all have specific properties that affect the body through smell. My sister gave me a Family Physician Kit by doTerra filled with essential oils including Oregano for Immune Support and mixtures for Muscle and Joint Support and First Aid for skin.  At the very least, the scents improve one’s environment.

The energetic quality of what you put in your mouth is another gigantic topic. When making your food choices, ask yourself, will this  dish or beverage increase or decrease my energy and sense of well-being? It may not deter you from choosing the breaded fried chicken over the green juice drink, but it should encourage more enlightened food for thought.

Chicago Beach bar/restaurants from Oak Street to Hollywood on Lake Michigan

This is the perfect time to check out some of the park beach houses and food/bar spots.

Oak Street Beach Food + Drink Talk about a great view of the lake, the Drake Hotel and Lake Shore Drive. You must be at the Oak Street Beach sipping a frozen margarita and munching on a chicken mole taco or a BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich.

http://www.oakstreetbeach.com/

Castaways at 1603 N. Lake Shore Drive features DJs and live bands to go along with your cold brewskies, your jerk fish tacos or Castaways signature burger.
Then again, you could go fancy and order the Riva Shrimp Chopped salad or the blackened grouper sandwich.

http://www.castawayschicago.com/

Bacino’s at 248 W. Diversey, west of the Diversey Driving Range, an Italian Grill open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, featuring Bruschetta, salads, panini, pizzas, burgers and gelato.

http://www.bacinos.com/DIVERSEY/contact.html

The Dock at Montrose Beach, at 200 W. Montrose Harbor Drive, with a liquor license, full-fledged restaurant and live music.

http://thedockatmontrosebeach.com/

Nacho Mama’s Burrito Bar at 5701 N. Lake Shore Drive, Osterman Beach House. One of the newer lakefront venues with non-alcoholic beverages like hibiscus tea, ginger beer, coconut water and, you guessed it, nachos.

http://www.nachomamasbeachbar.com/new-page/

I know there are beach bar/food businesses north and south of the ones mentioned above. Please let me know if you have any favorite spots along Lake Michigan in the city.

San Marzano Tomatoes and Terlato Pomodoro Sauce

How did it take me so long to discover what some chefs consider to be the best variety of plum tomato?
San Marzano tomatoes were originally grown near Naples, Italy in the volcanic soil of Mount Vesuvius. Going back in history, these particular tomato seeds were purportedly a gift from the Viceroy of Peru to the Kingdom of Naples.

If the new world had not been discovered, there would be no tomatoes in Italian cuisine. Can you imagine? I found a bag of these small red, oblong beauties at Whole Foods.

While trying to find a tomato sauce for pasta at Mariano’s that did not contain sugar or any creepy additives, I selected Terlato Pomodoro Sauce for its excellent ingredients: vine-ripened San Marzano tomatoes, cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, garlic and spices. When the check-out girl said the 24-ounce bottle was 12 dollars, I almost asked her to remove it from my purchases. Mind you, the regular grocery types were under 4 and 5 dollars. I was hungry and the thought of looking at more ingredient lists on other sauces impelled me to take the expensive product home.

Wow! When I first opened this “small batch” recipe, I couldn’t believe how fresh and flavorful it tasted. Yes, this tomato sauce is expensive, but it is definitely worth the price. It elevated my Italian meal way above the normal grocery store brand level. The Terlato Kitchen web site lists Arrabbiata and Vodka Sauces along with the Pomodoro. I just may need to purchase those as well as the Organic Dark Amber Maple Syrup. Grazie bene, John Terlato!

http://www.terlatokitchen.com