April 21, 2021

Warren Park in Chicago’s West Rogers Park Area

If West Rogers Park residents had not persisted, the 88 acres of Warren Park would have been developed into residential buildings and high rises. Instead, the neighborhood benefits from one of the most active parks in the city.

Besides a fieldhouse, there are outdoor facilities for baseball, basketball and soccer, plus the Robert A. Black 8-hole golf course and putting practice area. (Black was the Park District’s chief engineer for over 30 years.)

A jogging, walking and biking path around the park perimeter accommodates people of all ages, with exercise stations for cross-trainers. Dogs are another common sight on the paved trail.

The Blackhawk Skating Rink operates from Thanksgiving to February. The day I visited, people were socially-distanced in line, waiting to be admitted to the popular rink.

Warren Park also boasts one of the best hills in Chicago for sledding. No snow was present as of yet, but I saw daredevil kids on skateboards and bikes descending the steep hill at breakneck speed. I can’t wait to see sleds and toboggans swoosh down the incline.

We have Laurence C. Warren, an attorney and community leader, to thank for keeping this parcel as park land. The State of Illinois, north side community groups and the Chicago Park District also banded together to keep West Rogers Park green. Every season has its charms at Warren Park.

6601 N. Western Avenue, Chicago, IL 60645

Oprah’s “O Magazine” Print Version Calling It Quits After 20 Years

It was with sadness I learned of “O Magazine’s” decision to end its 20-year regular print run. The December 2020 issue will be its last featuring its beloved holiday tradition of choosing Oprah’s “Favorite Things.”

I have enjoyed “O’s” articles on food, fashion, health, psychology and impressive women, but the magazine was also a compendium of great books, clothing, make-up and services. In short, the publication encouraged women to “live your best life.”

Oprah has been on every single cover of the magazine, albeit sometimes sharing a photo with other humans or animals. This final issue has Oprah in a Volkswagen Beetle festooned with red wrapped presents.

Oprah assures readers they will still be able to get recommendations for all good things under the sun from OprahMag.com
Let me remind you that Harpo Studios and Discovery Inc. co-own the TV service, OWN (Oprah Winfrey’s Network) so you can commune with the Oprah brand via tv and streaming. You can also expect Oprah to print special magazine issues. Let’s hope she continues “Favorite Things” in some form for years to come. The December 2020 “O Magazine” issue is still available at newsstands.

Winnemac Park in Lincoln Square

I needed a nature visit, but did not have much time to drive someplace. Winnemac Park, which shares a parcel of land with Amundson High School and Chappell Grade School, sprang to mind.

Technically considered part of Lincoln Square, the park’s boundaries are Damen, Foster, Leavitt and Argyle. The Winnemac parking lot entrance is south of Amundsen H. S. on Damen Avenue.

At just over 22 acres, the park has a children’s playground and several open meadow areas for sports activities. There are prairie plantings in the interior of the park which feature footpaths amid the grasses and foliage.

Spring, summer and fall are the better times to visit this urban nature oasis, but there is a stark beauty to the now brown prairie garden areas. Winter snow will offer yet another lovely character to the park.

Look for the giant willow trees in the south side meadow bordered by Argyle.

Adults, children and dogs can be seen throughout Winnemac Park. This is not a dramatic recreational area, but a wonderful addition to the neighborhood for those needing a quick nature fix.

https://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/parks-facilities/winnemac-park

Watermelon Seed Butter from 88 Acres

Suddenly my Whole Foods grocery shelf has started featuring more than just peanut and almond butters. Cashew, walnut, sunflower seed and tahini have been some of the fat and protein sources I have tried, but some new additions took me by surprise.

Did you know the black seeds we discard from our whole watermelons can be made into a nutritious and delicious butter? I purchased a tub of 88 Acres’ Roasted Watermelon Seed Butter at Whole Foods. I was not happy to see both powdered and cane sugar in the ingredients, but I was still curious about its taste. In short, watermelon seed butter tastes like tahini (which is toasted and ground sesame seeds.) It was delicious on toast, but I may go for the unsweetened version next time so I can use it to make hummus or other dips.

You may want to check out the 88 Acres site because they feature other products featuring sunflower, pumpkin and watermelon seeds, sweetened and unsweetened, with added flavors like chocolate, maple and vanilla-spiced.

They also carry granolas, protein bars and dressings using these powerhouse nutrition seeds.

One final note: the tub’s label makes for amusing reading. Some of the phrases include “Making More From Less,” and “Just Good Nutrition” – and that subtly sweet roasted watermelon seed – to sprout a more in with the new kinda day. “Naturally, Nicole & the 88 Acres Family.”

I am getting my shopping list ready to purchase more organic products from 88 Acres, The Seed Company.

https://88acres.com/collections/seed-butters

Persimmon: the Unicorn of Fruits

In my local grocery store a few years back, I spotted dark orange pieces of fruit resembling miniature pumpkins in the exotic produce section. The sign said “Persimmons.” And they were $3 a piece which is fairly pricey for one small piece of fruit.

With a spirit of adventure, I opted for one that was plump, shiny and hard. I cut it open at home and was met with the worst chalky taste in my mouth. I spit out the fruit flesh with a “yecch” to punctuate my revulsion.

A friend who is much savvier than me about unusual food stuffs let me know that persimmons need to be so ripe that they look and feel like water balloons.

Back to the store I went and found one persimmon that was nigh on bursting with ripeness. As instructed, I pulled off the leaves on top and spooned the fruit out of the bottom part. What a delightful experience. The taste was sweet, but not cloying and the consistency was that of pudding. I had inadvertently found my favorite fall treat. This uncommon fruit is only available in autumn to early winter and only in select stores.

Unfortunately, many produce workers throw out what appears to be over-ripe persimmons. I literally bird-dog purveyors in hopes of catching staff before they discard this orange beauty. If you buy an unripe persimmon, it frequently never gets soft enough to eat without that awful chalky, bitter taste.

I have only found two varieties of persimmons in Whole Foods and Mariano’s (Kroger’s) stores: Fuyu and my preferred Hachiya, but I am still on the look-out for Sheng and Saijo types. Some refer to persimmons as the “apples of Asia.”

Besides eating persimmons by themselves, one can find recipes that use them in oatmeal dishes, persimmon chia pudding, persimmon bars and scones, cranberry persimmon salsa (Thanksgiving perhaps?), persimmon prosciutto grilled cheese sandwiches, persimmon chicken, kale persimmon salad, persimmon arugula pasta, sorbets, tarts, upside down cakes, puddings and persimmon corn bread.

Hurry before the all-too-brief persimmon season is over. A very ripe Hachiya persimmon is indeed the unicorn in the produce department.

20 recipes with persimmons:

https://californiagrown.org/blog/perfect-uses-for-persimmons/

Newman’s Own Cauliflower Gluten-Free Pizza

I have tried to walk the gluten-free path for a while now so I was thrilled to see that Newman’s Own (started by actor/philanthropist/car-racer Paul Newman) has come up with a Thin & Crispy Cheese pizza featuring a cauliflower crust that tastes delicious. Wheat and gluten have been supplanted with white rice, brown rice flour, tapioca and corn starches, plus cauliflower and cheese.

The crust hits a good balance of crispiness around the edges and gooey goodness in the center.

I bought the Margherita version with tomatoes, herbs and cheese and then added more vegetables. Whole Foods and Mariano’s are listed as Chicago purveyors of this specialty product. For now, one can buy the cauliflower crust pizza with either plain cheese or a Margherita version.

At the Newman’s Own web site, the company proudly notes they have donated over $550 million since 1982. What a wonderful legacy for a man who was not only a superlative actor, but a humanitarian as well.

Please note that milk, egg and parmesan cheese are ingredients in Newman’s Own Thin & Crispy Cheese Pizza, so this is not a product for vegans. Well, ya’ just can’t please everybody, can ya’?

https://www.newmansown.com/foods/cauliflower-crust-thin-crispy-margherita-pizza/