Mmm… Food

Off the Beaten Path : Getting Groceries from alternate sources
February 11, 2009, 3:07 pm
Filed under: Foods, Shopping

We tried to take advantage of the beautiful 50 degree weather in Chicago this weekend by investigating a new park with the dog.  What was not considered was the amount of meltoff and flooding that would come with the 50 degree weather, considering all the snow and cold we have had up to this glorious weekend!!! MUD CITY!!!  Alas, it was a fun adventure.  I’m trying to work my way around all the city parks, there are so many of them and the dog loves getting out and about as much as I’m enjoying seeing something new.  But anywhoozle.  The point here starts then with post dog park mud explorations we were planning on getting some groceries on the way home. 

On our way to Trader Joes, we saw a sign outside a Church Building advertising “WINTER FARMERS MARKET : PUBLIC WELCOME”  So we swung a right with the car, circled back and went in to check out the goods.  I was initially hoping for a larger variety of fresh vegetables and squash and such, but what we found was 40 bucks worth of homegrown goodness such as …

021009-003Organic Salsas with no added sugar or preservatives.  Eat it up!!!  Brought to you by Tomato Mountain Farms in Brooklyn Wisconsin.  The smoky one is super tasty!!


021009-006Breakfast Sausage and Lean Ground Beef from Arnolds Farm.  Note – this guy takes orders for his meat and makes some kind of monthly delivery to the Chicago area.  I’m looking into this more as these were some super tasty links!!!!  

021009-004Buckwheat Flour – Seriously we couldn’t even find this stuff at Whole Foods, the mecca of out of the way “Health Food” flours such as Buckwheat.  It’s in a Foodsaver container which is a whole other post to come.  April foodsaved most of our freezer this past weekend 🙂  You can find this one at Ted’s Organic Grainsin Dekalb Illinois.  Which ooh, they have a bunch of flours that all look rather spectacular!!!  Perhaps we’ll have to try some others 🙂

Baby Bella Mushrooms – No pic, but these things were plump and beautiful!!!

021009-005Blue Cheddar Cheese – I want to try some Mac and Cheese Recipe for this tasty consumption!!!  Know of any??  This one is from Ropp Jersey Cheeselocated in Normal Il.  Holla at my Aunt and Uncle!! They used to live in Normal.

Next time I see one of these signs I’ll be sure to be stopping again!!!  You never know what you are going to find.


Thank God it’s not the 80’s
February 10, 2009, 1:23 pm
Filed under: Cooking, Shopping

The 1980’s seemed like the heyday for the food myth that eggs are bad for you.  Too much cholesterol.  You shouldn’t eat more than 3 a week.  They would be your doom.  Times have changed and we know that eggs arent’ the the threat they once loomed to be.  Which is perfect for me and my weekend breakfast.  We seem to have eggs every weekend.  Never the same, which is one of the reasons eggs are so fascinating.  They go into so many foods, can be prepared in a myriad of different ways, but they’re always an egg.  This past weekend we had them

On Saturday…


Poached atop a wholewheat mini bagel with melted mozzarella, tomato tapenade and garnished with cilantro. Also a side salad of avocado with lime and cilantro.

We bought this poaching pan at a garage sale for a quarter, it looks kind of like this one.  poachThe problem being we only have the insert and don’t have a pan that the insert fits into thus making it worthless.  Until… I watched April put the mini bagel halves in the holes and put the whole thing under the broiler.  Brilliant!!!  If it worked the way it was supposed to and the the eggs were more perfectly round they might fit atop the bagel better without hanging over, but I like the way these ones kind of drape over the side.  They certainly taste just as good.  And I’ll venture better!!! Because they require a bit more care and love to cook 🙂

And on Sunday…


Poached again, but with a side of sausage links and a green salad.

This was some of the tastiest breakfast sausage I’ve had in a long time.  We randomly stopped at a Winter Farmer’s Market on Saturday held in a church basement down in Roscoe Village where we got the links straight from the source.  Arnolds Farm.  (I’m working up the entry about all the other great stuff we found at the market.  Great spontaneous stop shopping trip!!)  With a side green salad with blue berries and a fig vinaigrette.  And a piece of toast!!  HEAVEN!!

Homemade Pizza. Delicious!
January 30, 2009, 11:52 am
Filed under: Cooking, Foods, Shopping

I always used to believe that pizza was best ordered out.  Call it my Chicago roots talking but I love deep dish Chicago style pizza.  Thick and cheesy.  Giordano’stops my list but there are many other places I love a slice at.  This is not something you can just make at home either.  So with that considered, making pizza at home was usually seen as a money saving opportunity or food adventure by making my own crust and topping it with unlikely items, (like the prosciutto and egg pizza we tried earlier this year).  So last nite I was just looking for an easy fix to the problem that we had extra pesto in our fridge and needed a food solution to use it up.  Stepping up to the plate was Trader Joes.


Trader Joes sells pizza dough still in it’s raw dough form.  You just have to roll it out, top it with whatever you choose and bake for 7 or 8 minutes.  It’s fresher and tastier than any kind of Boboli or other pre-baked pizza dough, and it comes in a Whole Wheat version which makes it a little healthier.  (I say a little because even at home, pizza is not the prize winning choice for healthy meals.  However… last nite it was easy to make, cheaper than getting a pizza delivered, and one of the tastiest homemade pizzas I’ve ever made!!!

Instead of using a red pizza sauce, I used the pesto as the base.  I topped it with some pepperoni and fresh mushrooms and then covered it with a part skim mozzarella.  In the oven for 8 minutes and wala!!!  Heaven.  We ate the whole thing.  I felt overfull when we were done, but when it tastes that good you just can’t stop yourself.  Well maybe YOU can, but I can’t.

Harvestime Foods: 2632 W. Lawrence Ave
January 19, 2009, 5:11 pm
Filed under: Foods, Shopping

I did most of the grocery shopping yesterday at Harvestime Foods.  A place extolled by our friends Dan and Anne.  Located near Lincoln Square on Lawrence just west of Western this store has great produce, meats and breads. It was a very pleasant shopping experience.  Poking around in a new store, checking out their specialty items (in this case lots of pickled vegetables, canned seafood and a variety of Greek and Latin foods) is always somewhat of an adventure.  Trying to find all the things you need can initially be a challenge, but looking at all the different food stuffs is something new I am enjoying. 

The produce looked quite nice.  The berries I purchased black and blue, were found at the low prices of $1.19 and $.99 each.  Such a steal!!  I was thrilled.  They also had some other fun fruits, like pomegranate and papaya.  They had a variety of different apples, oranges and pears, and the fresh herb section was especially nice.  Fresh basil, dill, parsley, the only one I wanted that they didn’t have was rosemary (this was unfortunate).  But the basil was fresh cuts, not just the leaves, packaged up for consumer packaging tastes, but cut, put into bundles and rubberbanded together.  Wonderful!!!  The only other item I wanted that I left without was shallots.  I know they aren’t the most popular item, but I certainly thought they had climbed up the ranks of onion/garlic stocks to be on the shelf.  😦 

The meat counter was especially nice.  Fresh cuts to order.  1 pound of sirloin and 1 pound of ground turkey.  Cut and packaged to order.  They did have a small section of prepackaged meats, but most of it was laid out deli style, with a glass case, counter and a butcher waiting on the other side to take your order.  Love it!!! 

They also had a variety of fresh baked breads.  Things made from the simplest list of ingredients.  Flour. Yeast. Honey. Water.  None of the extra preservatives and colorings and High Fructose Corn Syrup.  A Ukranian Rye and Sourdough.  Mmm…  I purchased a round loaf of Whole Wheat.  Tasty tasty toast!!  It’s nice to find foods closer to their origins.  The list of ingredients on convenience foods moves the item further and further away from actual food, that it starts to become absurd. 

All in all I would recommend shopping at  foods.  If you cook from scratch and don’t require a lot of extra processed items, you will most likely find 95% of what you’re looking for.  And other people know what I’m talking about.  The parking lot was entirely full.  I waited 10 minutes for a spot before giving up and finding one on the street.  I don’t mind carrying the groceries a little ways.  It’s good for me.  So try it out.  It’s got the goods.

Salsify- to add salsa to a dish??
January 17, 2009, 7:12 pm
Filed under: Foods, Random Facts, Shopping

We picked up our last Winter Food Share this past Thursday.  We have been inundated with lots of squash, potatoes, and onions in all the deliveries, plus a variety of other food stuffs.  Parsnips. Turnips, Popcorn on the cob.  Maybe not standard items purchased at the grocery store, but still easily recognizable.  Then there were the roots we were delivered.  Upon pulling them out of the box, I declared “Parsnips, except they seem a little brown and smaller”  the next item that came out I again thought “parsnips, but wait I declared the last item to be parsnips, so they can’t both be parsnips, so what the heck was the first thing?”  After going to the website of the CSA Homegrown Wisconsin (you can sign up for their Summer CSA now!) and checking out the Newsletter I was able to identify the food as salsify.  What the heck is salsify you ask? 


As per wikipedia… “The vegetable called salsify is usually the root of Purple Salsify, Tragopogon porrifolius; the root is described as having the taste of oysters (hence the alternative common name “Oyster Plant” for some species in this genus), but more insipid with a touch of sweetness.

All the dishes (and there weren’t many) that I found on various sites seemed to pair salsify with seafood. Based on wikipedia, I assume this is because of the oyster flavour ascribed to the root. We are currently planning to try out this new root in the following dish by Emeril Lagasse. Flatiron Steak with Lemon, Herbs and Olive Oil with Sauteed Salsify and Elephant Garlic Chips. The next problem of course being, what is a Flatiron Steak?? While I like to think of myself as a Foodie. I may be misrepresenting myself. I have a lot to learn. I don’t know different cuts of meat or which part of the cow they come from. I’ve never had lobster and Dim Sum was unheard of only a year ago. I’ve come a long ways already, but I have many more miles to go. But I’m willing to try. Bring on the salsify. I’ll see what I can do. Worst of all, you throw it out and order a sandwich.

Check back later this week to see how it turns out 🙂

Make a Plan and stick to It: A weeks worth of food in our apartment
January 4, 2009, 10:44 pm
Filed under: Foods, Shopping

Make a plan and stick to it. This used to be religion. Planning my life and sticking to the plan no matter what was my saviour from depression. You figure out that you’re miserable. You live in it, you let it consume you, you reach that all time low and then you decide to do something about it. I’m not the depressive I used to be, and planning is still a big part of my life. (perhaps at times I need to let go and live a little bit more in the moment. However…)

I present the food planning that happens at our apartment, and perhaps the new heights we are taking it to.


Several months ago April and I ran into our friends Dan and Ann at the local Trader Joes. It was your basic “Hey, funny running into you here” conversation, that is until Dan spotted our shopping list. April and I attack our food plans in a very exacting planned manner. Seven days in a week. Meals for every day, planned out with shopping list to fulfill said dishes. It’s organized, it’s to the point, it gets the job done. Dan thought it was a little crazy.

The Ins and Outs to our food planning.

Plan for Dinner first.   
When you are cooking for two there are often leftover. While the above picture shows plans for breakfast lunch and dinner, this is more of an anomaly that a standard practice. If you make a dinner plan, you will often have leftovers such that one or both of you can have food to take for lunch the next day. This saves on money spent at lunch, ensures you will eat healthier than the fast food joint close to work, and if you have the kind of commute I do, it allows you to eat while you work, and spend a little less time at work.

Know that as much as try to plan it, your plan is going to be broken.
You’re going to come home late some nite and not be able to execute the meal you were planning on. This is just how life works. If you can plan this inability to always stay on task (Seriously, this happens to everybody!) you’re going to feel much better about it. It helps to plan to at least one meal a week around ingredients that will keep if you dont’ get around to using them. Therefore on the day that you just can’t get a meal made at home, and you end up ordering in from the local Chinese joint you wont’ have to be upset. It’s as if it’s part of the plan.

Pick things you like.
This sounds too simple, and I am a victim of over thinking it. While it’s fun to experiment and try new things, don’t overwhelm yourself. Choose dished you know how to make and you know you like. Then when things go astray some nites you’ll know you have your favourite meal to look forward to the next day.

We use the method of planning meals and making our shopping plans accordingly. While convenience would like to push us to shop at one location, know that if food is important to you, you will probably have to go to more than one store to get everything you want. Nobody has everything. Rank the importance of certain things to you and shop accordingly. Do you care more about freshness or cost? Would you rather pay more to have something be certified organic, or get a good deal at the local mart?? These are things to consider as you execute your shopping. We shop first at shops that supply organic, local and eco-minded foods. Then what we can’t find there we pick up at our local marts, supporting the local mom and pop operations. If we still don’t have what we want, we move on to the chains.

But whatever you do… Enjoy your food. It’s a huge part of life. You shouldn’t skip over all the wonder it has to offer you.

Organic Fruit Basket
October 30, 2008, 6:43 pm
Filed under: Shopping

This set of Organic Fruits Children’s toys sold by Uncommon Goods is too cute!!!  I smell a baby purchase in the future.  Our friends J&R (the baby shower cake recipients) had their baby earlier this month and I have apparently already become the aunt that can’t be stopped.  stuff for babies is too darn cute!!  so small.  it’s kind of like shopping for shoes where you see them on display in a size 5 and they are just so cute you can’t wait to try them on, and then they bring them out in your size (a 10, so sad) and they just look enormous.  Well baby things are like display shoes.  so freakin’ cute!!!  This set of fruits are made using “vegetable dyes and hand picked 100% organic Egyptian cotton” so cute, safe for your kid, and good for the world.  

I got the catalog for Uncommon Goods randomly in the mail a couple of years ago and I always enjoy browsing through their stuff.  The company strives to provide customers with products that are looking out for the world.  Their print catalog had this to say

“our commitment to sustainability

We care about the impact our business decisions have on the outside world.  Everything we sell is made without harm to animals; we offer many recycled and organic products, and we print this catalog on FSC-certified paper.  We’re proud to have been selectd as a founding member of B Corporation a standard for social responsibility that promotes sustainable practices, such as paying a living wage to our employees”  

all in all seems very cool.  I’ve read about the FSC but I need to do some research about this B Corporation.  Looks like something that may be a standard stamp of approval that if successful would help tip off consumers that a company meets a certain set of standards.  Very cool.  So if you’re looking for a gift for someone and you don’t know what to get, maybe you should check out UncommonGoods and see if something there strikes your fancy.