Candied Ginger for Ginger Ice Cream

Why You Need Vernors Ginger Ale and Ginger Ice Cream for Thanksgiving

Candied Ginger for Ginger Ice Cream

Candied Ginger

Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving is around the corner. It’s definitely time to start planning the menu. Last year I wrote a post about how the stomach soothing properties of ginger make Vernors Ginger Ale a favorite accompaniment to a Michigan Thanksgiving dinner. As a popular holiday spice, ginger conjures up memories of fun and celebrations. Nevertheless, when I read Melissa Clarks’ recipe for ginger ice cream in the New York Times, my first thought was what a soothing end it would be to a big meal. I had to try it!

Ginger

Ginger Root

Cinnamon Sticks for Ginger Ice Cream

Cinnamon Sticks

Ice Cream Recipe

I love bold flavors, and ginger is one of my favorites. Spiceography describes it as “hot, zesty and biting yet sweet and warm.” Melissa Clark’s recipe is flavorful and revs up the spice quotient further by also infusing the custard with cinnamon and clove. The instructions are simple, and even better, it can all be done in advance. In fact, other than separating and stirring in the egg yolks, most of the recipe involves simply giving time for the custard  to cool, infuse or churn.

Cloves for Ginger Ice Cream

Cloves

Ginger Ice Cream

It’s a great recipe. The ice cream is delicious.  Additionally, I think the small chunks of candied ginger will be the perfect digestion aid to follow a heavy holiday meal. I’m putting it on the menu!

Dish of Ginger Ice Cream

Ginger Ice Cream

Ginger Ale Cocktail

If your guests want something stronger than the effervescent splash of Vernors to go with their Thanksgiving dinner, try some ginger ale cocktails. Some favorites are ginger ale and whiskey (popularly known as rye and ginger in Canada) or gin, ginger ale and lime. Just add a jigger of your favorite libation to ginger ale and ice.

Holidays

Learn why Vernors is the best ginger ale in my post, “Vernors Ginger Ale and Why You Want it for Thanksgiving.” For more holiday dessert ideas try my recipe recommendations for apricot chocolate rugelach and an easy tiramisu.

 

Saskatoon Berries

What Kind of Summer Cook Are You?

Saskatoon Berries

Saskatoon Berries

Summer

Summer can be short in Chicago, and I don’t want to spend mine in the kitchen. I take my cue from Ina Garten, a cook I try to emulate. She suggests using the best ingredients and preparing them simply. Fortunately, I have the popular Evanston farmer’s market to keep me supplied with fresh picked fruits and vegetables from farms in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

Tomatillos- summer at the market

Tomatillos at the Evanston Farmer’s Market

Fresh Mozzarella

I like soft cheeses like fresh mozzarella and it’s creamier cousin, burrata to transform my market finds into a meal. Best when freshly made, these semi-soft Italian cheeses have a delicate milky flavor.  The firm elastic texture of fresh mozzarella makes it easy to slice and layer.  In fact, my go-to summer lunch is an open-faced Caprese sandwich with smoked mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes.

Harry's Berries at Pacific Standard Time

Harry’s Berries at Pacific Standard Time

Burrata Salad

I discovered nirvana early in the summer when I ordered a salad of burrata, strawberries, sugar snaps, and hazelnuts at Pacific Standard Time, a great new restaurant in Chicago’s River North neighborhood. I couldn’t stop making it at home while the strawberry season lasted. New berries have taken now their place in the recipe. I also want to try it with peaches and toasted pecans.

Saskatoon Berries

Saskatoon Berries

New Summer Berries

My newest fruit discovery is the saskatoon, also known as a serviceberry. Highly nutritious, it looks like a blueberry but grows on a tree. I have one in my garden, which is how I’ve come to eat so many. A wet spring, followed by hot early summer weather made everything grow spectacularly. I’ve never had a comparable crop. Sweet and delicate, the Saskatoon Berry Institute of America describes the  berry as “having as sweet, nutty almond flavor.” Although I snacked on many of them, I also put them in a tart and paired them with some light whipped cream.

Limeade

Another favorite summer treat is fresh limeade. Sweet, sour and refreshing it’s just what I want after a walk or a trip to the beach. A longtime favorite, it was the highlight of my trips to Drake’s Sandwich Shop, an old-fashioned luncheonette that was once adjacent to the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor.  I use Elise Bauer’s limeade recipe from Simply Recipes.  I like the extra punch of lime the addition of lime zest gives to the drink. Although I don’t add the mint, I do sometimes infuse the syrup with basil.

Iced Tea

Iced Tea

Tea

Everyone is thirsty in the summer so I feel encouraged to be creative, I grew up drinking iced tea, so that’s always in my rotation. Try my grandmother’s recipe it only takes a few minutes. If you like a sweeter drink add 1/3 fresh lemonade for an Arnold Palmer.

Homemade Green Juice

Green Juice

Other Summer Drinks

When I overbuy at the market I make fruit drinks. Watermelon agua frescas are always my first choice, Both sweet and refreshing, the pulp helps keep you hydrated. Try my recipe  from my post on 30seconds.com. When I have a wider array of ingredients I make a green juice; try my recipe  it even wins over novice green juice drinkers.

Fruit,Vegetables & Herbs

Fruit, Vegetables & Herbs for a Summer Drinks

No Calorie Drinks

I have to admit that my ultimate discovery of the summer has been Spindrift. It’s a no-calorie sparkling water that has actual juice flavor, not just fragrance,  l can’t get enough of the grapefruit version. I even got a subscription. My family laughs, but I haven’t found anything as refreshing.

Spindrift Grapefruit

Spindrift Grapefruit

Changing the Name of My Blog

As I’ve mentioned I  will be changing the name of my blog to “A Chicago Life,” so look for it in the future.

 

 

 

Tropical Smoothie

Are Smoothies Really a Better Milkshake?

Lime Juice - Are Smoothies Really a Better Milkshake

Lime Juice

Smoothies

I could say that I drink smoothies just because they are healthy, but I’d be lying. I like them because they are thick and frothy. Because they don’t feel heavy in my stomach. And because they are quick to make when I wait too long to eat. I also like that they are healthy.

Healthy Smoothies

I  load my smoothies with protein and calcium. They’re a drinkable meal. I try to keep them interesting, but still healthy by adding flavor and reducing the sugar.

siggi's vanilla Icelandic yogurt

siggi’s vanilla Icelandic yogurt

Yogurt Smoothies

The simplest way to keep the sugar low in a smoothie is by choosing a plain or low-sugar yogurt. I usually use siggi’s vanilla Icelandic yogurt because it is thick, low in sugar and high in protein. I sometimes double the vanilla and use plain Greek yogurt. It has no sugar and is also thick and high in protein. I prefer non-fat milk to nut milks, but almond milk is even lower in calories.

Tropical Smoothie

Tropical Smoothie

Frozen Fruit Smoothies

Rather than ice (which dilutes the flavor) I add frozen bananas to my smoothies. Frozen fruit creates the frothy milkshake-like texture.

Healthy Smoothie Ingredients

Another reason to add bananas to smoothies is their nutritional properties. They are filled with potassium, are high in fiber and low in sugar.  I always buy too many bananas. When they get mushy I take off the skin and freeze them in a freezer bag for future smoothies.  I fill my smoothies with protein. In addition to yogurt, I include a tablespoon of a nut butter. The extra protein helps keep me full throughout the morning. I also add a tablespoon of flavorless ground flax seeds for their fiber,  omega-3 fats and high nutrient content. Read this Healthline article to find out about more about the benefits of flax seeds.

peanut butter

peanut butter

Breakfast Smoothies

I like smoothies for breakfast because they are easy and quick to prepare. You can even take them with you in the car or on the train.

Smoothie Recipes

One of my favorite breakfasts is a Peanut Butter and Vanilla Smoothie. On days when I want to jump-start your metabolism or cool off, I make a Tropical Smoothie instead. It’s made with cashew butter, lime and a hint of cayenne pepper.

Other Breakfasts

If you are looking for some other breakfast ideas try my recipes for rice pudding, peanut butter oatmeal or a yogurt parfait.

A Chicago Life

Look for more of my posts about fun in Chicago and my upcoming blog name change to “A Chicago Life.”

Easy Smoothie Recipes

Peanut Butter and Vanilla Smoothie

1 – 16 oz. or 2 -8oz. Glasses

1 frozen banana

1 cup almond or nonfat milk

½ cup vanilla Icelandic yogurt

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 tablespoon peanut butter

1 teaspoon maple syrup

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.

 

Tropical Smoothie

1 – 16 oz. or 2 -8oz. Glasses

1 frozen banana

1 cup nonfat or almond milk

½ cup Icelandic plain yogurt

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon cashew butter

1 teaspoon maple syrup

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Garnish with a sprinkling of cayenne.

 

Chicago

How to Simplify Your Weekend in Chicago Itinerary

Chicago

Chicago

City Weekends

I’m always ready to travel. Even a weekend is enough to get a snapshot of a locale, When I get away I most often choose to try a new city.  Although I love the beach, I am naturally a city person. My idea of fun is: food, art, music, and discovering what makes a place unique. My greatest challenge is usually how to pack in so many experiences. Since I live in the Chicago area, I have lots of time to explore it. Fortunately, it’s always evolving, I never fail to discover new places and neighborhoods. Nevertheless, as a resident, I’ve also uncovered some secrets that can simplify any weekend in Chicago itinerary. Let me help you plan your trip so you can focus on having fun.

Downtown Chicago

Downtown Chicago

Weekend in Chicago Itinerary

It is easy to spend a weekend in Chicago and never leave the neighborhood near your hotel. The downtown area is packed with theater, shopping, museums, and landmarks. When I travel I want to see the famous spots, but I also try to get the local perspective. I want to see where people go when they’re not on vacation. Although you’ll see plenty of Chicagoans shopping on Michigan Avenue, or enjoying the patios of West Loop restaurants there’s a lot to be found in neighborhoods throughout the city.

Thalia Hall, part of a Chicago Weekend Itinerary

Thalia Hall

Easy Weekend in Chicago Itinerary

Even though I live here, I appreciate when a music venue or museum has a good restaurant, a coffee bar or a spot for cocktails. Fortunately, one of Chicago’s most intimate concert halls, Thalia Hall has two out of three. In addition to Thalia Hall, the building houses a gastropub, Dusek’s Board and Beer, and two bars, Punch House and Tack Room. It’s a short Uber ride away in Pilsen, a neighborhood, popular with Mexican immigrants, southwest of downtown.

Dusek's, part of a Chicago Weekend Iinerary

Dusek’s at Thalia Hall

Punch House

If I’m seeing a concert with a group I like to start the evening at Punch House. It’s in the basement below Dusek’s. Decorated like a relative’s 1970’s rec room, their specialty is punch recipes. Divided into classic and contemporary categories, you can get them by the glass, carafe or bowl.  I think my favorite punch is Space Juice for Jereda blend of tequila, citrus and sparkling wine spiced with black pepper and sage. If you like your punch with champagne, there’s tableside champagne punch service for six.

The food at Punch House is also meant for sharing. Try the fondue, shishito hushpuppies, or Dusek’s famous Sourdough Pretzel EPI.

Punch House

Punch House

Dusek’s Board and Beer

Dusek’s is a laid-back neighborhood spot that has a curated craft beer selection and amazing food. Winner of a coveted Michelin star, it’s a place where you’ll be equally happy whether you get the cheeseburger or the steak tartare. Open for brunch, lunch, dinner, and late night, the restaurant offers upscale comfort food. Since some diners are mainly here to see the music, snacks, sandwiches and a dessert menu are all available. Personally, I have to admit to an addiction to their chicken-fried rabbit. I also find the plate of artisanal hams and duck fat fries hard to resist. Others I know, are dedicated to the lamb sausage sandwich. It’s a popular place, so I recommend making a reservation.

Dinner at Dusek's

Dinner at Dusek’s

Thalia Hall

Thalia Hall is one of my favorite places to see music in Chicago. The building is a historic landmark, commissioned by tavern keeper John Dusek in 1892 as a multi-purpose community hall. At the turn of the last century, it contained commercial storefronts, residential housing, and a public hall. Modeled after a Prague opera house, John Dusek built Thalia Hall with the intent of bringing music and the arts of Bohemia to his bohemian neighbors. The ornate theatre fulfilled it’s mission, functioning both as a gathering spot and a center of entertainment in the neighborhood for over 70 years, Closed in the 60’s, the property was bought by 16 on Center hospitality collective in 2013. They launched three new concepts in the beautifully restored Thalia Hall: a  beer-inspired restaurant, a punch-focused bar, and an event space that hosts established musical acts.

Sourdough Pretzel EPI

Sourdough Pretzel EPI

Tack Room

Just because you don’t have tickets to see a favorite band at Thalia Hall doesn’t mean you can’t see live music here. The Tack Room, a cozy cocktail bar offers regular entertainment in the form of a piano bar. A patio and a small menu of snacks, sandwiches, and desserts have also contributed to it becoming a destination of its own.

Shishito Hush Puppies - weekend in Chicago itinerary

Shishito Hush Puppies

Add Art to Your Weekend in Chicago Itinerary

If you enjoy art, get to Pilsen before 5 pm and visit the free National Museum of Mexican Art. It’s a wonderful small museum. You can immerse yourself in both Mexican art and its culture here in Chicago. Don’t miss the gift shop, its a treasure trove of work from contemporary artists.

Contemporary Mexican Art from The National Museum of Mexican Art - weekend in Chicago itinerary

Contemporary Mexican Art from The National Museum of Mexican Art

Traveling

I hope you enjoy Thalia Hall and the Pilsen, It’s a fun area. It adds something out of the ordinary to your weekend in Chicago Itinerary.

If you are looking for other travel ideas read my posts about Portland, OR, Portland, ME, and DC.

The Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial

Changing the name of my blog to A Chicago Life

As I mentioned in my last post, How to Discover if You are Meant to be a Food Blogger, I’m changing my blog to give readers a wider range of useful information. To reflect the addition of posts not related to food or wellness I will be changing the name of my blog to  A Chicago Life.

 

 

 

 

 

Deconstructed Steak Fajita - Food Blogger

How to Discover if You’re Meant to be a Food Blogger

Deconstructed Steak Fajita at Split Rail Chicago - Food Blogger

Deconstructed Steak Fajita at Split Rail Chicago

How to Discover if You’re Meant to be a Food Blogger

I haven’t posted recently. First I got the flu and was traveling, but then mostly because I had been thinking about changing the scope and focus of my blog. I initially started blogging because I have a passion for food. I love cooking, markets, cookbooks, and restaurants. I’d also discovered that short-term fasting and healthy-ish recipes allowed me to balance indulging, without gaining weight. Since deciding to share my experiences, I’ve learned a lot about being a food blogger.

Strawberries

Strawberries

A Food Blogger who is a Recipe Developer

I’ve been cooking since I started college; I’ve worked in restaurants, and have dozens of cookbooks. Needless to say, I seldom make a recipe as it’s written. I  usually cut it in half, take out the things my family doesn’t like, and substitute vegetables or spices that are more suited to our palates. Nevertheless, I’ve come to see my approach to cooking as a version of recipe curation, not recipe development. True recipe development involves trying a litany of likely techniques in order to discover which will yield the best results. It also involves testing the final recipe repeatedly, in order to fine-tune the ingredient proportions and timing. While I might try several flavor combinations of a favorite technique, I lack the scientific rigor to continue testing once I have found a winning formula. For online recipes that have been tested thoroughly, I turn to Food & Wine and Bon Appetit.

Homemade Green Juice

Green Juice

Intermittent Fasting and Being a Food Blogger

I found the difference between short-term fasting and dieting so remarkable that I thought it was important to share my experience with others. Since then, intermittent fasting has become quite popular. There are now several successful ways to achieve results with short-term fasting, I don’t even use the 5:2 approach anymore. Many people who tried the 5:2 fast found themselves giving in to temptation at the end of the day.  Even though I usually made it, I often went to bed early on fast days. Personally, I find skipping breakfast is much easier than keeping my caloric intake down to 500 calories for a whole day. Whether you choose to fast for twelve or sixteen hours, the chance of giving up is still low because most of the fast will occur while you are asleep.  Nevertheless, the 5:2 fast gave me insights on how to make changes to my diet. If you want ideas on how to reduce portions, or increase the time between meals without feeling deprived, read my 5/2 Fast Meal Plan. For healthy-ish food, try my recipes. While I can attest to my personal success at combining healthy home-cooked meals with short-term fasting, I will leave the details to the experts. Read this Healthline newsletter for more information about intermittent fasting regimes.

Vintage Cookbooks- Food Blogger

Vintage Cookbooks

When Did Everyone Become a Food Blogger?

When I was a child, my parent’s obsession with food, restaurants and Gourmet magazine was definitely a niche interest. Now everyone shares it. Since great food and wonderful recipes are being created everywhere, I think I’m better suited to sharing the best of my food experiences rather than developing recipes. In recent months I’ve posted favorite recipes, seasonal trends, and restaurant reviews. I will continue to do that, as well as update the some of the best of my old posts.

Chicago

Chicago

Food and Travel Blogger

I love writing about food, but regularly publishing food-related content has made me realize that some of my most popular posts are my Chicago restaurant recommendations. I also find readers interested in my travel experiences. To that end, I am refocusing my blog to include other facets of my experience, and changing the name of my blog to A Chicago Life.

On Lake Michigan

On Lake Michigan

Travel with Me

I’m not from Chicago. Nevertheless, I love exploring it. Growing up in the suburbs of Detroit, I always found unique and compelling places both in and around the city. I’ve always enjoyed sharing my adventures with my friends so I hope you will join me.  Moving to Hawaii and New York gave me rare exposure to unknown worlds and inspired me to seek out what sets a city apart.  Life in Chicago has been just as interesting. I’m excited to share more of what is remarkable in Chicago, as well as in my travels.

Downtown in NYC

Downtown in NYC

Curated Trips

There are so many ways to spend your days and evenings here. Whether you live in the Chicago area or somewhere else, I hope to provide you with new ideas on how to spend your time here. I will also continue to share my favorite food experiences, both at home and in the city.

Poochie's Char Dog with Grilled Onions

Poochie’s Char Dog with Grilled Onions in Skokie

Chicago Area Restaurant Reviews

New Restaurants are always appearing around Chicago. It’s hard to keep up. Here are some of my favorites. In Chicago, there’s nouvelle Indian Mango Pickle,  delicious baked goods at Cellar Door Provisions and inspired Mexican cooking at Ixcateco Grill. In Evanston, enjoy the variety of delicious comfort foods at upscale diner The Lucky Platter,  out of the ordinary Afghan dishes at Kabul House or Modern Thai cuisine at Na Korn.

Travel

I love to travel. I try to document my discoveries wherever I am. Some places I’ve enjoyed visiting are Quebec, Portland, OR, Portland, ME and DC. Read my posts and see if they sound like places you’d like to go. Please send me your favorite travel discoveries.

 

Easy Tiramisu Recipe

Why Spring is the Best Time for This Easy Tiramisu Recipe

Easy Tiramisu Recipe

Tiramisu

Why I Crave This Easy Tiramisu Recipe

I first became a tiramisu connoisseur in the late 80’s. It was all the rage then, a fixture on restaurant menus. I was new to New York City. After hours of exploring, I would stop for tiramisu, the perfect pick me up. Light, creamy, and laced with expresso, it’s both refreshing and caffeinated. Since there’s no shortage of Italian cafes in New York City, I quickly noticed the subtle flavor differences. Whipped cream or custard? Rum or Marsala wine? Not quite cakey?  Over time I found my favorite cafe, and the inspiration for my favorite easy tiramisu recipe.

Ladyfingers

Ladyfingers

How This Easy Tiramisu Recipe is Similar to a Ice Box Cake

There’s something magical about the idea of transforming cookies into cake. My first exposure to refrigerator cakes was through the Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafer version. A cake made famous by the recipe printed on the box. Instead of rising in the oven, four hours in the refrigerator turns cookies and whipped cream into cake.

Grated Bittersweet Chocolate

Grated Bittersweet Chocolate

Sophisticated Versions of the Ice Box Cake

Although Nabisco refrigerator cakes are a fixture of 20th century American convenience food, it’s a  riff on the frugal cook’s trick of reusing aging ingredients. Incorporating dry cake or cookies into a new dessert is a tradition that goes back centuries. Many countries have their own version. In the Britain, the trifle substitutes dry pound cake for cookies. The Italian version uses delicate ladyfingers in their easy tiramisu recipe.

img_5277

Whipped Cream

Use Whipped Cream for an Easy Tiramisu Recipe

Some tiramisu recipes use custard for the cream filling. Delicious and rich, it requires patience to achieve the proper consistency.  Even though I enjoy custard, this easy tiramisu recipe is the one I use most often. Made with whipped cream it is simpler and faster to prepare. Now that the days are getting warmer I don’t want to spend too long in the kitchen.

Other Desserts

For other dessert ideas try my milkshake, rugelah and rice pudding recipes.

Recipe

Tiramisu

Serves: 9

1/2 cup freshly brewed espresso at room temperature

1/4 cup dry Marsala wine, divided

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 cup granulated sugar, divided

8 ounces mascarpone cheese, softened

2 cups heavy cream

18 to 20 Italian ladyfingers

1-2 ounces grated bittersweet chocolate for dusting

Brew espresso.

In a wide dish mix the espresso, 2 tablespoons of Marsala wine, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and a tablespoon of sugar. Set aside.

Whip the cream to form stiff peaks with a whisk or hand mixer. Set aside.

Grate the chocolate and set aside.

Mix the mascarpone, the remaining sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla and  the Marsala wine until combined. Fold  the mixture into the whipped cream.

Quickly dip both sides of the ladyfingers in the espresso mixture and lay them in the bottom of a 9 – inch square dish. It might be necessary to break the cookies to completely fill the space.

Cover the ladyfingers with half of the whipped cream mixture. Top with grated chocolate. Add a second layer of espresso – dipped ladyfingers. Top the cookies with rest of the whipped cream, and cover with a layer of grated chocolate.

Cover the dish with cellophane and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Add more fresh grated chocolate to the top before serving.

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Trimmed Artichokes Ready for Steaming

How Steamed Artichokes Can Make a Party Special

Trimmed Artichokes Ready for Steaming

Trimmed Artichokes Ready for Steaming

Dinner Party

When I want to make a party feel special without being expensive, I make steamed artichokes. They are relatively cheap, yet sculptural and forbidding. They give a meal a dramatic quality. I love sharing food experiences, and artichokes are a particularly fun because it’s not clear how eat them. They are also are eaten slowly giving plenty of time for conversation as the leaves are peeled away. Whether your friends are just discovering the joy of nibbling on leaves, or are debating sauces; it’s memorable. Also compared to most decadent foods, its a healthy treat.

Artichokes for Steamed Artichokes

Artichokes

Artichokes

Globe artichokes are thistles; flowering plants with sharp barbs on their leaves. Both unusual and and intimidating, they add an exotic quality to any table. Unlike most fruits and vegetables, it takes research or experience to know what to do with them.

Fresh Artichokes

Fresh Artichokes

Health Benefits of Steamed Artichokes

Artichokes have many healing properties. Although it is the heart of the vegetable that is most often eaten, it’s the leaves that contain many of its most powerful nutrients. Artichokes are high in antioxidants which helps prevent cancer. It’s benefits are also correlated with fighting cardiovascular disease by reducing inflammation and cholesterol levels. Additionally artichokes are a good source of fiber which contributes to weight loss and helps control diabetes. Artichokes also detoxify the liver and digestive system, and are high in iron, which prevents anemia.

Salt

Salt

How to Cook Steamed Artichokes

Cooking artichokes starts with getting fresh produce. Choose an artichoke that looks fresh and green, not dried out. The best choices have closed petals and feel heavy for their size. Artichokes stay fresh for a week in an air-tight plastic bag, if kept in the refrigerator. When ready to use, rinse the artichoke thoroughly under cold water and pull off any brown outer petals. Using a serrated knife, cut an inch off the top and trim off the stem. If thorns remain on any leaves, trim them with scissors. Finally, pull the leaves slightly away from each other, and rinse it with lemon juice to prevent discoloration.

Steamed Artichokes

Steaming is my favorite way to prepare artichokes because it preserves the vegetable’s nutrients and antioxidants. Put a steamer basket in a sauce pan and fill it with an inch or two of salted water until it reaches just under the basket. Put the artichokes into the basket, stem end up, then cover the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for twenty to thirty minutes, Test for doneness. It’s ready when an outer leaf is easily removed and a knife can slide into the stem.

Artichoke Leaves

Artichoke Leaves

Eating Artichokes

Eating an artichoke is exciting. The goal is to reach the heart. First pull off a leaf. Then eat the protruding bottom flesh of the leaf, by scraping it against your teeth. After the eatable leaves have all been removed, cut off the tiny thistle leaves to reveal the heart. Finally, slice and eat the heart. I have to admit to a lifelong fondness for this ritualistic process. Always a slow eater, it perfectly suited my small appetite.

Garlic for Aioli

Garlic for Aioli

Steamed Artichoke Sauces

Artichokes are good hot, warm, or cold. If I am serving them hot, my favorite sauce is definitely melted butter with some fresh squeezed lemon juice. However, when I make them for party, I want to be able to prepare them in advance. Cold or room temperature artichokes are better with a cool sauce. Here are some of my favorites. Garlic aioli is always the dip of choice in my house. If you have an immersion blender make The Food Lab’s Two Minute Aioli Recipe. For a healthy vinaigrette make Martha Rose Shulman’s, Vinaigrette Dipping Sauce from the New York Times or try The Spruce’s spicy healthy Toasted Cumin Yogurt Dip. What’s your favorite sauce?  Make a few and have fun sharing.

Lemon for Artichokes Sauce

Lemon for Artichokes Sauce

Parties

The next time you’re having friends over for a sporting event use the menu from my post, Why you Want Easy Baked Ribs for Your Super Bowl Party.

Healthy Weeknight Meals

For some healthy and quick weeknight meal ideas, try my recipes for chicken ramen and poke.

 

 

 

 

 

Lemon Zest for Healthy Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

How to Make Good Healthy Muffins

Healthy Muffins

I must admit to a lifelong love of the kind of breakfast pastries that could be classified as dessert. Nevertheless, it’s the warm baked good with a cup of coffee that I really crave. It doesn’t have to be decadent. With that as my premise, I started my quest to create light, tasty and healthy muffins.

Lemon Zest for Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

Lemon Zest for Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

Baking Muffins

I had once spent a summer making muffins. This is an exaggeration. I was actually a prep cook and I made many other things.  Nevertheless, every day I made a different muffin. The basic recipe never changed; just the fillings. Although I never described myself as a baker, I have discovered how forgiving muffins are to alteration.

Poppy_Seeds

Poppy Seeds

Healthy Muffins Expert

For healthy food inspiration, I looked to California cuisine. I wanted something both whole grain and delicious. The breakfast pastries at Santa Monica bakery, Huckleberry are legendary. When I visited, the line was out the door. Owner and baker, Zoe Nathan trained at San Francisco’s famous Tartine Bakery, described by Bon Appetit as “America’s most influential bakery.” If anyone can make something healthy and delectable, she can. Hoping to replicate her luscious treats I bought her cookbook.

Healthy Muffins

Healthy Muffins

My Healthy Muffins

My recipe is inspired by Zoe Nathan’s lemon cornmeal muffins with lemon glaze from her cookbook, Huckleberry  I didn’t have cornmeal, so I substituted whole wheat pastry flour. To create a lower calorie snack I omitted the sugary lemon glaze. I didn’t I want to lose the additional lemon flavor imparted by the glaze, so I added more lemon juice to the batter.  I think the inclusion of ricotta cheese in this recipe is genius! See what you think.

Poppy_Seeds

Poppy Seeds

Healthy Meals

For other healthy recipe ideas try my smoothie bowl or peanut butter and jelly oatmeal.  Also, if you want to discover how to take advantage of seasonal citrus fruit read my post, What to Do When It’s Blood Orange Season.

Healthy Muffins Recipe

Ricotta Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
Serves: 24 small muffins

¾ cup room temperature butter
¾ cup + 3 Tablespoons sugar
1½ teaspoons sea salt
Zest of 2 lemons
Juice of 2 lemons
2 eggs
4½ tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1¾ whole – wheat pastry flour
2¼ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoons baking soda
1¾ cups skim ricotta cheese
¼ cup poppy seeds

Position two racks in the center of the oven and preheat it to 350F then line 2 12 –cup muffin tins with paper liners.

Stir together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda and set aside. Remove the zest from the lemons before cutting and squeezing out the juice.

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, salt and lemon zest on medium, until the butter looks fluffy. Slowly incorporate each egg, one at a time. Make sure to continuously scrape down the sides of the bowl into the batter.

Slowly add the lemon juice, olive oil, maple syrup and then the vanilla. When thoroughly incorporated, alternate the premixed dry ingredients and the ricotta. Be careful not to mix more than necessary. Then fold in the poppy seeds.

Fill the muffin cups until they are ¾ of the way full. Bake for approximately 18 minutes then rotate the muffin tins in the oven after 10 minutes, to ensure even baking. The muffins are ready when they just barely spring back.

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Is a Smoothie Bowl the Best Breakfast Recipe

What is the Best Breakfast Recipe

Is a Smoothie Bowl the Best Breakfast Recipe

Smoothie Bowl

What is the Best Breakfast Recipe?

I am not a morning person. Growing up, my favorite breakfast recipe was something we had on the weekend. During the week I kept my morning routine simple by not eating breakfast at all.  The truth is, my mother made big dinners, and we ate late.  I just wasn’t hungry when I got up.  When I was ready to eat at 10am, I was already at school. I learned to ignore being hungry and think of breakfast as something to have on the weekend. It was something fun, when there was lots of time.

Intermittent Fasting and Breakfast

Changing from the 5/2 intermittent fasting plan to the Leangains method, has led me to once again skip breakfast. Since I’ve fasting while sleeping, what’s a few more hours?

Almonds

Almonds

Why a Smoothie Bowl is the Best Breakfast Recipe

On the weekend I like to start the day a with a light breakfast, something both easy and delicious. I find a smoothie bowl perfect. It even looks pretty. It also leaves me feeling nourished and satisfied. I fill it with fiber and protein by putting yogurt in the smoothie, and then topping it with fruit, and either nuts or seeds. This time I added some coconut flakes too for a tropical feel.

Coconut Flakes

Coconut Flakes

Other Healthy Breakfast Recipe Ideas

For other healthy breakfast ideas try my recipes for smoothies, protein -packed oatmeal and yogurt parfaits.

Recipe

Tropical Smoothie Bowl

Serves 1

½ cup vanilla Icelandic yogurt

1/2 cup skim milk or almond milk

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 banana, sliced

Toasted almonds

Coconut flakes

Blend yogurt, milk, maple syrup and vanilla until smooth. Pour the smoothie into a shallow bowls. Top each bowl with sliced bananas, almonds and coconut flakes.

 

Donuts, Including Old Fashioned Cake Donuts

When You Want the Best Old Fashioned Cake Donuts

Donuts, Including Old Fashioned Cake Donuts

Donuts

Donuts

It’s hard to think of Fat Tuesday without donuts. The large Polish population in Chicago has made the traditional pre-Lenten treat, paczki (a round filled donut,) a favorite.  Bakeries throughout Chicago create them for the day in countless flavors. People line up to get them before they’re gone. Even though I prefer cake donuts, I can’t resist paczki when they’re filled with praline chocolate mousse or strawberries and whipped cream. Those are just two of the offerings at  Bennison’s Bakery in Evanston.  Another local favorite, Deerfield’s Bakery, is offering paczki in eighteen flavors.

Peanut Butter Yeast Donut

Peanut Butter Yeast Donut

Why I Choose Old Fashioned Cake Donuts

The first donuts I remember were the apple cider cake donuts at the Franklin Cider Mill in the Detroit suburbs. Warm from the oven, they’re incredible. Fortunately it was a favorite fall outing. Although I always enjoyed watching the apples being pressed and the flavorful cider, the donuts were the highlight of the trip.

Yeast and Old Fashioned Cake Donuts

Yeast and Old Fashioned Cake Donuts

Yeast vs. Old Fashioned Cake Donuts

Before the Krispy Kreme donut craze I wasn’t sure I even liked yeast donuts.  I had always liked their custard fillings, otherwise I found them unremarkable. It wasn’t until Krispy Kreme developed a national following that I gave an unfilled yeast doughnut another try.  As I had discovered at the cider mill, warm doughnuts are better. Even I had to admit, a warm Krispy Kreme glazed doughnut was very good.

Stan's Donuts

Stan’s Donuts

Best Chicago Donuts

Donuts in an extraordinary range of flavor combinations are now available throughout the country. Some of the best donuts in Chicago can be found at Doughnut Vault, Do -Rite Donuts & Coffee, Stan’ s Donuts, and Firecakes. The popularity of the inventive creations means that lines and limited availability are standard.  The marriage of creative flavors with crunchy cake exteriors has made me a devoted follower. I rarely get to award-winning Doughnut Vault early enough. If you do, their plain glazed is easily as popular as the more complex confections. I like the inventive fillings at Do -Rite Donuts and Coffee ; when I’m in the neighborhood I can’t resist stopping for their pistachio-Meyer lemon donut. Some of Stan’s (an LA import) most popular donuts  have specialty fillings such as Biscoff cookie butter and peanut butter. However, our family always returns for the classic coconut cake. If you’re in Chicago for Fat Tuesday try any of these donut emporiums for a carnival treat.

A Firecakes Donut Box

A Firecakes Donut Box

 

Firecakes Old Fashioned Cake Donuts

Firecakes is my favorite Chicago Donut shop because they make the best cake donuts in town. It wasn’t until I began researching this post that I realized that old fashioned cake donuts have several definitions. I always thought they were just a synonym for cake donuts – doughnuts leavened with baking powder or soda instead of yeast. I discovered that other definitions include: cake donuts with irregular jagged edges (which create more crunch) and oversized jagged edge cake donuts. At Firecakes the Buttermilk Old Fashioned cake donuts are my favorite. They are irregular average size donuts with a moist flavorful vanilla interior and a wonderful crunchy outside. The contrast of sour buttermilk and sweet glaze creates a perfectly balanced donut. If you like cake donuts, you must try it.

 A Firecakes Old Fashioned Buttermilk Donut

A Firecakes’ Old Fashioned Buttermilk Donut

Donuts While Traveling

When I’m traveling I try get to noteworthy donut shops. One of my favorites is Voodoo Donuts in Portland,OR. For information about it and other fun Portland destinations read my post How to Find Fun in Portland OR.  I looked forward to trying the potato cake donuts at Holy Donut in Portland, ME. The flavor wasn’t for me, but they are popular. See for yourself. For other Maine dining ideas read, Where to Eat in the Other Portland. If your favorite dessert is cupcakes rather than donuts, my article, Where to Find Some of the Best DC Restaurants will tell you where to go.

Triple Rich Chocolate Cake Donut

Firecakes’ Triple Rich Chocolate Cake Donut