Japanese Farm Food: An Award Winning Cookbook

              “Our life centers on the farm and the field. We eat what we grow,” says Nancy Singleton Hachisu, author of Japanese Farm Food which won the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2012: USA Winner for the Best Japanese Cuisine Book. It’s a fascinating take on Japanese cuisine from Hachisu, a native Californian who moved to a small village in rural Japan more than 30 years ago, intending to live there for a year.  Describing herself as coming for the food, but staying for love, she met and married Tadaaki, an organic farmer, moved to the rural Saitama Prefecture. There she raised a family in an 80-year-old traditional Japanese farmhouse  and immersed herself in both the culture and cooking. The book is so very niche that it’s almost like being in her kitchen and on her farm, giving us an amazing insight into a tiny slice of Japanese farm culture.

              Hachisu also has written Japan: The Cookbook which she describes as not an examination of regional cooking traditions, as much as a curated experience of Japan’s culinary framework from a specific moment in time. Using both fine and generous strokes, I have put together what I hopes a broad and rich picture of the food of this island nation.”

              Her other books include Preserving the Japanese Way: Traditions of Salting, Fermenting, and Pickling for the Modern Kitchen It’s a book offering  a clear road map for preserving fruits, vegetables, and fish through a nonscientific, farm- or fisherman-centric approach. Ruth Reichl, author of Tender at the Bone and former editor-in-chief of Gourmet Magazine writes  “Even if you never yearned to make your own miso or pickle your own vegetables, this beautiful book will change your mind. It’s almost impossible to flip through these pages without wanting to join Nancy Singleton Hachisu in the lovely meditation of her cooking. This book is unlike anything else out there, and every serious cook will want to own it.”

              Food Artisans of Japan, another of her wonderful books, offers us a look into Japan’s diversely rich food landscape and includes 120 recipes from 7 compelling Japanese chefs and 24 stories of food artisans.

Pork and Flowering Mustard Stir-Fry

Buta to Nanohana Itame

Serves 4

            “Tadaaki made this one night when we had fields of flowering mustard and komatsuna. The flowering tops of brassicas, particularly rape (natane), are called nanohana in Japanese and are similar to rapini. Tadaaki tends to throw some meat into his stir-fries because he feels it gives the dish more depth,” writes the author in this simple recipe that is delicate and delicious. “I’m more of a purist, so prefer my vegetables without meat. But this dish really won me over, and I quickly became a convert (almost). Japanese stir-fries can be flavored with soy sauce, miso mixed with sake, or even salt. In this dish, I like the clarity of the salt.”

  • ½ tablespoon organic rapeseed oil
  • Scant ½ pound (200 g) thinly sliced pork belly
  • 1 tablespoon finely slivered ginger
  • 1 (10 ½-ounce/300-g) bunch flowering mustard or rapini, cut into 2-inch (5-cm) lengths
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt

Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil.

Heat a wide frying pan or wok over high heat. Add the oil quickly followed by the pork belly slices and ginger slivers. Sauté until the fat sizzles and there is some minimal browning, but don’t overdo it.

Place the flowering mustard in a mesh strainer with a handle and lower into the pot of boiling water. Cook for about 30 seconds, or until no longer raw. Keep the strainer at the top of the water surface in order to scoop the mustard greens out in one brisk pass. Shake off the hot water and toss into the cooked pork belly. Toss a few minutes more over high heat and season with the salt. Cook for about 30 seconds more, then serve.

Variations: Substitute soy sauce for the salt or chopped ginger for the slivered ginger.

—From Japanese Farm Food, by Nancy Singleton Hachisu/Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC

4 Self-Care City Vacation Retreats

Taking Care of Yourself

Busy lives and hectic work schedules can take their toll on both the mind and the body, which is why it’s essential you try to take a break to recharge your batteries as you welcome the New Year. One way of energizing your body and calming your mind is to take a trip focused on self-care and general wellness.

Guest blogger, Lisa Walker of Neighborhood Sprout, recommends four cities you can visit to achieve both.

Minneapolis

In 2020, Minneapolis, Minnesota was voted the third-fittest city in the country. More than 75% of residents work out at least once a week. It’s a haven for outdoor lovers, and travelers would be foolish not to visit the town of Brainerd, with its 450 lakes and year-round recreational activities such as hiking and canoeing and opportunities for relaxation.

With lower-than-average health care costs, an incredible park system, good infrastructure, and a seemingly endless stream of things to do, Minneapolis is a great place to live as well as visit.

Knoxville

Being exposed to high levels of traffic daily can lead to chronic stress. However, this isn’t something you’ll experience in Knoxville, Tennessee, one of the world’s least congested cities. Far less traffic ensures a quicker journey to the country’s most visited national park, just 34 miles away.

The Smoky Mountains spans over 500,000 acres and has 850 miles of trails, including the world-renowned Appalachian Trail.

Besides less congestion, other benefits of moving to Knoxville include lower housing costs. Searching for rental apartments in Knoxville is made easier by visiting sites like Apartment Guide. You can set your price range and other parameters to ensure you only search for properties within your budget and meet other requirements such as a number of bedrooms, pet friendliness, and other amenities. 

San Marcos

San Marcos in San Diego, California, is a fantastic place to recharge and rejuvenate with its tranquil streets, peace, quiet, proximity to the breach, open spaces, and nature. It’s also home to one of the best spas in the world.

The Golden Door features multiple facilities including, a 2,000-square-foot equipment gym, two swimming pools, and a water therapy pool for guests to work out or relax. Discovery Lake, another place of interest, allows visitors to immerse themselves in large tracts of wilderness and connect with nature. Anyone deciding to relocate to the city can enjoy a lower cost of living and a lower crime rate than average. 

Malibu

Escape the crowds at Malibu’s Westward Beach

West of Los Angeles, California, and known for its celebrity homes and beaches, Malibu also boasts an exclusive and sought-after seven-day wellness retreat, The Ranch.

Limited to just 19 guests, visitors immerse themselves in a self-care experience that includes weight loss, fitness programs while also enjoying local plant-based meals.

Eight hours of daily activity include afternoon naps, massages, and an organic vegan diet. Living in a sparsely populated city has many benefits, such as incredible landscapes, top attractions, and a low crime rate. As expected, living costs in the city are considerably higher than the average.

A Necessary Reset

Whether it’s a relaxing massage, a 45-minute workout, or an awe-inspiring visit to a national park or an organic vegan diet, sometimes a change and a reset are not only needed; they’re often necessary. 

Miski Organics

A small Canadian company, Miski specializes in non-allergen, organic, cultivated sustainably,  and fully able to be traced to their sources foods. Nut allergies?

Then check out their Sacha Inchi Butter and Sacha Inchi Cocho Butter made from made from roasted sacha inchi seeds which are found in a fruit native to the Caribbean and South America and considered a superfood. But that’s not their only product.

Indeed, with a focus on Peruvian foods, they also have a Yacon Syrup made from yacon tubers that grow in highlands of the Peruvian highlands and is used as a sweetener, has a caramel taste, and contains less calories than sugar.

Yacon Flakes are good to eat as a snack and as an ingredient in trail mix. Dark Chocolate Covered Pineapple Chunks, Chia Seeds, Ripe Banana Powder, and Vegan Quinoa Carrot Cake to name just a few. And there are recipes, which is great since these are unique ingredients.

Inca Bits

  • 2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup dark chia seeds
  • 1/2 tsp pink Himalayan salt
  • 1 cup sacha inchi butter or sacha inchi choco butter
  • 1 tbsp yellow maca powder
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup

(Optional) Chocolate coating:

  • 3/4 cup cacao powder
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil

In a medium bowl, stir oats, chia, maca & salt. Add sacha inchi butter & maple syrup to the mix and stir.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Wet hands and form dough into about 12-15 balls.

Place bits on parchment paper and put in freezer.

Place cacao and coconut oil in a small pot, add maple syrup and heat until melted. Remove from heat. Once the mixture has cooled (but not hardened), dip bits in using your hands or tongs. You should have a solid coat. Add Himalayan salt on top, then freeze on prepared parchment until hardened.

Store Inca Pits in a glass container. Enjoy cold or at room temperature, alone or with tea.

miskiorganics.com/

Hauntings, History, Chocolates & Cheese: In Vermont’s Green Mountains

          I follow the aptly named Covered Bridge Road which winds and twists its way to Emily’s Bridge that spans Gold Brook in Stowe Hollow not far from Stowe, Vermont where I’ll be spending the week. It’s an old bridge, built in 1844 and I wonder, as I park my car and grab my camera, about Emily. As I go to shut my door, I suddenly hesitate, listening to an internal voice telling me not leave my keys in the ignition. That’s silly, I tell myself as I put the keys in my pocket, who would steal my car out in the middle of nowhere. Who is even around on this narrow road? Even Emily has been gone since 1844.

          That’s where I’m wrong. Emily, it seems, despite her sorrows, has a mischievous streak. She wouldn’t take my car for a joyride—after all back in her day it was horse and buggy not Rav-4s. But she might have locked my door with the keys inside. That, it seems, is one of the mischievous tricks that Emily likes to play, though others have reported more vindictive acts such as shaking cars with passengers in them and leaving scratch marks, first upon the carriages that once rode over these boards and now cars.

          Who was Emily and why has she spent almost 180 years doing these things? In Stowe I learn there are several tales, all with the same theme. Jilted or maybe mourning her dead lover– Emily either hanged herself from the single-lane, 50-foot-long bridge or threw herself into the creek below. Whatever happened, it ended badly for Emily and now, at night, people sometimes hear a woman’s voice calling from the other end of the bridge—no matter what side they’re on–and see ghostly shapes and sometimes, Emily obviously being a spirit who has 21st technological knowledge, maybe their keys will get locked in the car. As for the romantic name of Gold Brook, the answer is prosaic enough–gold once was found in the water.

          But those who live in Stowe, Vermont, a picturesque 18th century village tucked away in the Green Mountains, don’t let a ghost, no matter how fearsome she might be deter them from selling Emily’s Bridge products such as t-shirts, puzzles, paintings, and even tote bags. Etsy even has an Emily’s Bridge Products section. I wonder if that makes Emily even angrier.

There are no ghosts as far as I know at Topnotch Resort in Stowe where I’m staying. It’s all hills and history here and each morning, I sip on the patio, sipping the locally roasted coffee named after the nearby Green Mountains.

Located on 120-acres in the foothills of Mount Mansfield on what was once a dairy farm, the sleek resort still has traces of its past in the silvery toned whitewashed barn and vintage butter tubs found in the resort’s public rooms counterpoints to the sleekly designed furniture that manages to be both cozy and comfy at the same time.  

The local and locally sourced mantra is stamped on this part of Vermont like the differing shades of light and dark greens mark the mountains. Organic animal and vegetable farms and small cheeseries, chocolatiers and dairies dot the countryside.

But before heading into town, I have the resort’s experiences to explore.

Though I haven’t played tennis for many years, I take a private lesson at the Topnotch Tennis Center, ranked by Tennis Magazine as No. 1 in the Northwest and among its Ten Best U.S. Tennis Resorts.

As we work on general ground strokes, the pro, one of about 10, all of whom are USPTA/PTR certified, helps me correct an awkward backhand.

“It’s all about muscle memory,” he tells me noting that I need to reintroduce myself gradually back into the game, as my muscles relearn lessons from long ago.

Retraining muscles makes me sore, so my next activity — a gentle horseback ride on one of the experienced trail horses at the Topnotch Equestrian Center— seems perfect.

We an hour-long path that meanders across a wooden covered bridge—one that isn’t haunted–spanning the West Branch of the Lamoille River, climbs Luce Hill past patches of shamrocks and weaves through wavy grasses dotted with pink yarrow and painted daisies.

Then it’s on to my own self-created food tour. At Laughing Moon Chocolates in downtown Stowe, I watch as salted caramels are hand dipped into hot chocolate and ponder the difficult decision of what to buy. It’s a delightful place, in a century old building, with wooden display cases and such yummy and intriguing chocolate fillings such as blue cheese using an artisan blue cheese made by a local creamery.  Who could resist?

Following the winding Hill Road, I stop to chat with Molly Pindell, who co-owns, with her sister Kate, the 27-acre Sage Farm Goat Dairy. We walk amongst the Alpine goats that look up from the sweet grass and fall apples they are munching on to watch us. Goats, Molly tells me, are friendly and loyal. Think dogs with horns.

          After watching the goats frolic, we head to the creamery where Molly needs to pack up her latest cheese, Justice, a 100% raw goat’s milk, bisected by a layer of vegetable ash, and aged just over 60 days. It’s truly a family farm with Molly’s husband Dave and their two children and Katie’s partner Bob, the couples live I think how great would this life be? Cute goats, great cheese, and a chance to get back to the land.

          Though, on second thought, milking goats everyday early in the morning when it’s cold and snowing may lose its appeal pretty quickly. Better just to buy goat’s cheese at wonderful places like this.

          To relax after my endeavors, I head to Topnotch’s spa for their signature massage and then a swim in the slate lined outdoor pool. Slate being another Vermont product. I have just enough energy to end the night as I began my morning, sitting on the patio near the outdoor fire pit with its flicker of flames highlighting the garden art on the grassy hillside, while watching the Green Mountains fade into dark.

The following recipe is courtesy of Laughing Moon Chocolates.

  • ½ pint heavy cream
  • 1¼ pounds Yucatan chocolate chunks
  • 1½ ounces sweet (unsalted) butter
  • 1½ ounces vodka
  • ⅓ ounce or 500 milligrams Elmore Mountain Therapeutics CBD oil or other CBD oil

Pour the cream into a saucepan, stirring over medium heat until it begins to steam (190 degrees). Turn off heat and add the chocolate, butter, and liquor, stirring with a wire whisk until mixture is blended smooth and no pieces of chocolate remain. Add CBD oil and whisk well. Pour mixture into shallow baking dish and let cool overnight. When ready to prepare, scoop chocolate mixture with a spoon and roll in cocoa powder.

Additional flavor options are endless! Some favorites include:

Chamomile and Lavender: Steep ⅛ cup tea with the cream on low heat until it steams. Strain into a larger pot to remove herb or tea. At Laughing Moon, they use Vermont Liberty Tea Company’s Moonbeams and Lavender.

Maple: Add Vermont maple syrup to taste.

Substitute vodka with raspberry liqueur, peppermint schnapps or a liquor of your choosing for a subtle additional flavor.

Back to the Islands: The 14th Annual Savor the San Juans

For those who have never been, the San Juans, an archipelago of islands off the coast of Washington State and easily accessible by ferry, are a magical combo of natural beauty, nature’s bounty found in farms, orchards, wineries, a cultural dedication to sustainability, land stewardship, and small food producers as well as delightfully charming small towns and villages set against the backdrop of Puget Sound.

Now, after a year of pandemic and social distancing, it’s time to celebrate to return to the island and experience in real time the food and farm culture of Lopez, Orcas, and San Juan islands, the largest of archipelago’s 170 islands.

And what better time to do so than during the 14th Annual Savor the San Juans? It’s a fine time to taste and tour with so many special events going on such as harvest dinners, film festivals, farm tours, wine tastings, demonstrations, and more. And of course, there’s plenty to explore on your own as well.

Upcoming tours and events

October 14-17 Friday Harbor Film Festival

October 16-17: Lopez Island Farm Tour

October 16: San Juan Island Farmers Market

October 29: Alchemy Art Center: October Sip ‘N’ Sculpt with Maria Michaelson!

November 12-14: Hops on the Rock Orcas Island Beer Fest

Information on Local Flavor Specials can be found here.

Getting there, visit here.

Where to stay And what to do.

Can’t make it this year, then bring a little of the island into your kitchen with the following recipe.

 Cook Like a Coho Restaurant Chef: Roasted Garlic, Pear, and Goat Cheese Flatbread

Ingredients for Flatbread Dough

1 tsp active dry or instant yeast
1 tsp granulated sugar
3/4 c warm water
2 c (250g) all-purpose flour or bread flour
1 Tbsp olive oil, plus 1 tsp for brushing the dough
1 tsp salt

How to Make Flatbread Dough

Mix the ingredients together by hand or use the dough hook of a stand mixer.

If making by hand, place dry ingredients in a large bowl, make a well in the middle, and add wet ingredients. Incorporate the wet with the dry and knead for ten minutes. If using an electric mixer, place all ingredients in the bowl and beat for five minutes, until all the ingredients come together into a smooth ball.

Place dough in a greased mixing bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm, draft-free place for 45 minutes.

Punch down the dough and separate in half. Form each half of the dough into rounds.
Sprinkle the countertop with flour.

Take your rounds and roll them out to a football shape and length. Press your fingers lightly into the dough and dimple. This helps prevent any large air bubbles. Brush with olive oil to keep the crust crisp.

For best results, especially if this is your first time making flatbread, bake the flatbread before topping it. Transfer dough to a baking sheet. There is no need for parchment paper with this dough.

Bake at 450°F for 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

Top with goat cheese, garlic, and pear. Bake for another 5 minutes.

Top with arugula and balsamic reduction.


Balsamic Reduction

1 cup balsamic vinegar

How to Reduce Vinegar

Pour balsamic vinegar in a shallow pot over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Let reduce until your balsamic is a thick consistency and coats the back of your spoon.

Roasted Garlic

4 cloves of garlic

How to Roast Garlic

Peel four cloves of garlic and place in oil until submerged, cover with aluminum foil and roast at 450°F for fifteen minutes or until golden brown. You will be able to smell the garlic when it’s ready.

Whipped Goat Cheese

1/3 cup goat cheese
2 tsp water

How to Whip Goat Cheese

Place goat cheese and water in a blender or food processor. Blend for two minutes until it is smooth and easy to spread.

Hummingbird Lounge: Appalachia cooking Meets New American Cuisine on Michigan’s Sunset Coast.

         Raised in Southern Appalachia in Stagg Creek, a slip of a town tucked in a corner of North Carolina hills and hollows near the Tennessee state line, Shane Graybeal describes the region as “food heaven” and the beginning of his fascination with food.

         “Both my grandparents had farms,” says Graybeal, who after graduating from culinary school at Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, South Carolina worked in France, Italy, Washington D.C. and spent seven years in Chicago working at such well known restaurants as  Bin 36 and Sable Kitchen & Bar. Along the way he was inducted into Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, the world’s oldest, largest and most prestigious food and wine society.

         But he missed small town living and being close to the farms where he sourced his foods.

          “I’ve been a fan of Southwest Michigan for many years,” says Graybeal who now is executive chef at the recently opened Hummingbird Lounge in New Buffalo. “When I was living and working in Chicago, I  sourced a lot from Southwest Michigan.”

         Among the local food producers they use are the Mick Klug Farm in St. Joseph and Kaminski Farms Meats in Three Oaks.

         Another plus for Graybeal was being back in a small town.

         “Though compared to Stagg’s Creek, which has a population of about 300, New Buffalo seems like a big city,” Graybeal adds with a laugh.

         Graybeal describes his food as a “cheffy take on American classics, comfortable food all dressed up.” I loved the description but was surprised to learn that “cheffy” is an actual word meaning relating to or characteristic of a chef.

         His take on food matches the overall philosophy of Hummingbird’s owner and operator Ben Smock who wanted to create a cocktail bar and restaurant that was comfortable and “served food you want to eat.” The lounge opened in April and is located in what had been a grand home built in 1901 that once housed a creperie in  New Buffalo.

         Smock has an extensive background in the food industry starting when he worked at his grandfather’s bowling alley in Davison, Michigan where he grew up. He graduated from Michigan State University’s hospitality program, worked at McCormick Place, Levy Restaurant group and the Ravinia Music Festival and started his own consulting business where he provided food service planning and events. He’s also opened a number of venues.

         The menu changes frequently, depending on what’s in season. Graybeal was excited because the first peaches were hitting the market along with blueberries and raspberries.

         “I’m thinking fruit cobblers,” he says.

         He also brings a bit of Appalachia to the menu.

         “Food is very important there,” he says, making one want to jump in a car and head south to see what he’s talking about. “And I think in the right context—pickling, charcuterie, foraging–it comes across very well.”

Earlier in the season, he took ramps, cut them into a tiny matchstick size and flash fried the garlicky wild greens to add to an asparagus dish. We’re guessing that the round super thin pickled with cherry Kool-Aid hails from the mountains as well—and they’re delicious.

Graybeal also made ramp vinegar which he now uses in some of his dishes. Now with fresh Michigan peaches available, he makes a jam to pair with pork, but kicks it up a notch with the addition of jalapeno peppers.

But, he notes, the food is a side note to the cocktails and what’s on the menu are more like a tapas bar—nibbles that are share,able. The Lounge’s cocktail team takes what Graybeal is preparing in the kitchen and concocts drinks to accent his flavors.

The cocktails—which also change frequently—have in the past included a Smoked Pineapple Margarita, a tequila based drink with seasoned and smoked pineapple and salted foam, The HRG Manhattan using Traverse City Whisky Company blend along with sweet Vermouth, Angostura bitters and a fancy cherry and A Real Dandy Old Fashioned with rum, demerara syrup, bitters and expressed orange. For those who don’t drink, there are spirit-free cocktails. There’s also a small wine list offering by the glass or bottle and local brews.

         Why did they name the place Hummingbird? Smock says they chose it because hummingbirds drink all day and it just fit because they are open throughout the season. For warm weather dining, there’s a large back porch and garden area. The garage has been redone and is now an inviting event space. The interior of the restaurant itself is very cozy with a curated antiquated feel to go with the history of the home including a fireplace flanked by columns, its mantel topped with a large mirror and coach lanterns, cozy rooms, polished wood floors, and the deep gray walls are accented with lots of white woodwork. The bar is sleek—less Victorian and more urban trendy which makes for a nice contrast.

Chef Graybeal’ s Pork and Peaches

Rub pork belly with salt, sugar, and vanilla powder. Place in pot. Cover and marinate overnight. The next day cover with lard and cook on low heat for three to four hours. Cool and then crisp up in a hot pan until golden brown and tender.

Peach Jam

Cook together for two hours, them finish with a squeeze of lime juice. Puree in blend until smooth and cool.

To serve—crisp the pork belly, put two ounces of jam on a warmed plate, top with the pork belly, slice a peach and toss with aged sherry vinegar, basil, parsley and mint and a little olive oil. Place on top of the pork.

Beef Skewers with Whipped Feta

For the Beef Skewers:

Grind the brisket, combine with the other ingredients and whip with the paddle attachment. Form into balls and then into long rolls, place each roll on a skewer.  Grill for six minutes on both sides.

For the Whipped Feta:

Combine in the mixer, whip using the the whip attachment until light and fluffy-like similar to icing.

Just for fun, I thought I’d include a recipe for Kook-Aid brined veggies.

Trish Yearwood’s Fruit Drink Pickles

Drain the brine from the pickles into a bowl. Add the fruit drink packet and sugar into the brine and stir until dissolved. Pour the brine back to the jar, discarding any that’s leftover. Refrigerate at least 2 days and up to 1 month.     

Choose Chicago Announces a Relaunch of the Chicago Greeter Program

Just in time for the  summer 2021 season, the Chicago Greeter program will now showcase the city’s diverse neighborhoods through four different initiatives

Chicago, IL – June 17, 2021 – Choose Chicago announces a relaunch of the popular and world renowned Chicago Greeter program. The program now includes four different initiatives bringing the knowledge and passion of this network of 200 volunteer guides to locals and visitors alike in new ways, while remaining free to the public: the original In-Person Greeter experiences, Welcome to Our Neighborhood walks, InstaGreeter Downtown meetups and Self-Guided Greeter tours presented by Bank of America.

From Chinatown to Pilsen and Greektown to Little Italy, Chicago’s neighborhoods tell the stories of the people who made the city their home throughout history. Since 2001, Chicago Greeter has shown how these neighborhoods have remained just as vibrant today, with bustling cafes, restaurants, museums, public art and more.

“Choose Chicago is proud to relaunch and expand the renowned Chicago Greeter program this summer and share authentic Chicago neighborhoods with locals and visitors alike,” said Jason Lesniewicz, Director of Cultural Tourism for Choose Chicago.  “We now have four great ways to experience fascinating histories, diverse cultural traditions, iconic landmarks and off-the-beaten-path gems.”

Chicago Greeter Experiences

A recipient of TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence for over ten years, the original In-Person Chicago Greeter experiences offer deep dives of 2-to-4 hours of the Chicago neighborhood of your choice. Guests are paired with a friendly, local volunteer based on their neighborhood and subject of interest for a personalized experience. Tours are available in over a dozen languages and are available to book now.

Welcome to Our Neighborhood Walks

Explore Chicago’s neighborhoods with these new, free walks led by diverse community groups and neighborhood organizations. Walks will dive deep into the highlights of each community’s unique stories, top attractions and under-the-radar finds, all through the eyes of people deeply embedded in the community. The first of these tours to launch will be through Chinatown in collaboration with the Chicago Chinese Cultural Institute on June 19 and July 17.   

InstaGreeter Downtown Meetups

The InstaGreeter downtown meetups, returning July 2nd, were designed with those who are pressed for time or looking for a more flexible option in mind. These free, hour-long tours of Chicago’s downtown Loop neighborhood operate Friday, Saturday and Sundays departing at 11:30 am. No reservation is required and InstaGreeters depart from the Chicago Cultural Center’s Welcome Center located at 77 E. Randolph Street.

Self-Guided Greeter Tours

The new Self-Guided Greeter Tours, presented by Bank of America, provide visitors and locals alike curated, virtual tours designed by local experts to showcase each neighborhood’s unique history, culture and hidden gems. 

Through the power of video, blog and social content, this series will shine a spotlight on six Chicago neighborhoods by leveraging the knowledge and expertise of the Chicago Greeter volunteers. Each part will feature a different neighborhood, including a unique Chicago Greeter itinerary and logistical instructions on how to best explore the neighborhood in person.

The digital content will launch this month, with a blog post highlighting a self-guided walking tour of Chicago’s South Loop. Additional content will follow on a monthly basis, with Kenwood, Bronzeville, Bridgeport, Pullman and West Ridge to follow. 

“Chicago’s neighborhoods are teeming with history and culture, and that deserves to be celebrated,” said Paul Lambert, President of Bank of America Chicago. “We’re honored to partner with Choose Chicago to spotlight communities across the city’s South and West sides, to encourage people to visit these local landmarks, and to drive economic activity where it is needed most.”

This self-guided program is an extension of the successful 2020 International Greeter Day “do-it-yourself” tours, which was created during the COVID-19 pandemic. The virtual series highlighted Ukrainian VillageUptownPilsenHyde ParkChinatown and the Chicago Riverwalk.

For additional information about the newly updated Chicago Greeter program, visit https://www.choosechicago.com/chicago-greeter/.

# # #

About Choose Chicago

Choose Chicago is the official sales and marketing organization responsible for promoting Chicago as a global visitor and meetings destination, leveraging the city’s unmatched assets to ensure the economic vitality of the city and its member business community. For more information, visit choosechicago.com. Follow @choosechicago on Twitter and on Instagram. Like us on Facebook.

Weelicious: Fourth of July Meals and Beyond

Red, white, and blue food is always part of the upcoming Fourth of July holiday and so this year, I turned to Catherine McCord, founder of Weelicious, a website and cookbooks dedicated to healthy eating, getting kids into the kitchen and to the table. She also is co-founder of One Potato, the first organic home meal delivery kit service designed getting family meals together in 30 minutes or less and that are kid-friendly so that children can help. All the ingredients for One Potato are pre-prepped, making it easy indeed.

As if that wasn’t enough, McCord, has authored several cookbooks including Weelicious: One Family. One Meal with 140 original recipes and Weelicious Lunches: Think Outside the Lunchbox created to go beyond peanut butter and jelly sandwich and featuring more than 160 recipes.

A former model, actress,  and culinary school graduate McCord, the mother of three, who has been on the cover of such magazines as Glamour and Elle magazines, also appears as a judge on Food Network’s Guy’s Grocery Games.

Named by people magazine as “one of the 50 most influential “Mommy Bloggers.” She updates her blog with a new recipe a day. Visit her at www.weelicious.com

The following recipes are courtesy of McCord.

Fourth of July Parfaits (makes 8 parfaits)

Prep Time: 5 mins Cook Time: 0 mins

Angel food cake (store bought or homemade, recipe below)

  • 1 cup strawberries, stemmed & quartered
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • Coconut whipped cream (recipe below)

Homemade Angel Food Cake:

  • 1 cup cake flour, sifted
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 12 large egg whites
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Cut the angel food cake into 2-inch cubes.

Alternately layer the angel food cake, coconut whipped cream, and berries in clear glasses or mason jars so you can see all the colors and textures.

Homemade Angel Food Cake:

Preheat oven to 325F degrees. Whisk the flour and powdered sugar in a large bowl.

In a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt on medium-low speed for about 30 seconds. Increase the speed to medium-high until the egg whites are very foamy and barely form soft peaks, about 45 seconds longer. Gradually add the granulated sugar and continue to beat on medium-high speed until whites are firm and glossy and hold stiff peaks (if you over beat, the meringue will look dry and curdled). Beat in the vanilla and lemon juice.

Sift one-third of the dry ingredients over the meringue. Continue to beat on low speed until just incorporated. Continue the sifting and mixing process 2 more times. Remove the bowl from the standing mixer and fold batter several times with a large spatula to make sure all ingredients are fully incorporated.

Pour half of the batter into ungreased tube pan. Using a spatula push the batter all around the pan as it will help with a more even cake after baking. Scrape remaining batter into pan and spread the top evenly.

Bake the cake about 40 minutes or until top is puffy and golden. Immediately invert the pan onto a baking rack. Allow the cake to cool at least 1 hour.  Turn the cake right side up and using a thin metal spatula, cut around sides and loosen cake. Release the tube from the cake pan. Using thin metal spatula, loosen cake from bottom. Invert cake onto a plate or cake stand and remove bottom. Allow to cool thoroughly before cutting into cubes.

Coconut Whipped Cream

Makes 1 ½ cups

  • 1 can full fat coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon powdered sugar

Place the jar of coconut milk in the refrigerator to chill overnight.

Being careful to not shake the can, open the coconut milk.

Spoon out the thick coconut cream into a large bowl, which is about 2/3 of the can. Once you get to the liquid, stop and discard or save for smoothies.

Beat the coconut cream with a handheld electric or stand mixer for 1 minute.

Add the powdered sugar and continue to beat until light and fluffy, about 30 more seconds.

Fruit Wands

  • 1 watermelon
  • 2 pints blueberries
  • 20 skewers

Slice the watermelon into 1/2 inch round slices, and then cut out star shapes using a three-inch star-shaped cookie cutter.

Gently slide the blueberries on wooden skewers* and finally place a watermelon star on the top.

Place the skewers in a tall glass or in decorated floral foam as an eatable centerpiece.

Red, White & Blue Pops

Makes 8 Popsicles, depending on the size of your molds

Prep Time: 5 mins Cook Time: 0 mins

  • 12-ounce bag frozen blueberries, defrosted
  • 6 tablespoons agave, divided (you can also use honey)
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup milk (you can use cow’s milk, almond, rice or soy)
  • 12-ounce bag frozen raspberries, defrosted

Place defrosted blueberries and 2 tablespoons agave or honey in a blender and puree until smooth.

Pour the blueberry puree 1/3 way up each popsicle mold and freeze for 30-45 minutes.

Combine the yogurt, milk, and 2 tablespoons of agave or honey in a bowl and whisk until smooth.

Pour yogurt mixture 2/3 way up the popsicle molds on top of the blueberry mixture, gently tap to even out the yogurt layer, and freeze for another 30-45 minutes.

Place defrosted raspberries and 2 tablespoons agave or honey in a blender and blend until smooth.

Finish the popsicles by pouring the raspberry puree over the yogurt, place sticks in and freeze 6 hours to overnight, until frozen through. 

*Because all popsicle molds are different sizes, you may have left overs. You can refrigerate the remaining berry purees and use as toppings for yogurt, granola, pancakes, etc.

This article also appeared in the Food section of the Herald Palladium.

Holiday Stocking Stuffers for Food Lovers: Great Gifts That Do Good

This holiday season, give some fascinating food products that also give back to needy causes to the food lovers on your list.

 COFFEE CHAI CHIA PUDDING (w/ P.B. COFFEE CHAI SMOOTHIE on top) with Blue Lotus Chai

Blue Lotus Chai, a spiced tea free of all sweeteners, additives, artificial flavorings, or colorings, comes in an assortment of masala blends—Traditional, Golden, Mint, Rooibos, Star Anise, and Mandarin. Caffeine-free, it’s easy to prepare, and contains anti-oxidants. This year, Blue Lotus Chai won the Specialty Food Association’s 2020 sofi™ Award for innovation and taste in the 48th annual awards. They donate 10% of their net profits to charitable organizations such as Doctors Without Borders, American Cancer Research and A Hope for Autism Foundation.

bluelotuschai.com/

Blue Lotus Chai

8 ounces coconut creamer (or milk of your choice)

½-¾ teaspoon Blue Lotus Chai powder

1 tablespoon coconut sugar (or sweetener of choice)

½ teaspoon chia seeds

1 tablespoon hot water (enough to dissolve chai powder & sweetener)

A few ice cubes

In a measuring cup, dissolve Blue Lotus Chai powder and sweetener in hot water; stir.

Add it, along with milk of choice and ice cubes, into a blender. Blend until ice is well crushed and milk is frothy. Add chia seeds, stir, and let sit for a few minutes. Pour into a glass and enjoy!

Note: If you prefer, you can add the chia seeds to the dissolved mixture before adding milk and mix them up in the blender. This adds to the creaminess, with no crunch & chew from the seeds.

Sacred Sauce

            Another company that donates 10% of all company profits, in this instance to the Rainforest Trust, Sacred Sauce is a medium-heat sauce made with serrano chilis, cacti and blood oranges containing only vegan-friendly, organic, and natural ingredients. Their Sacred Salad Sauce is probably one of the few medium heat sauces for salads. Made with habanero and serrano chilis, mashed up mango flesh and citrus tangerines giving it a sweetness with out having additives such as sugar or artificial sweeteners. The spicy taste contrasts well with the coolness of salad greens.

Neither Sacred Sauce nor Sacred Salad Sauce contain any preservatives, chemicals, xanthan gum, extracts or concentrates.

https://sacred.site

SkinnyDipped Lemon Bliss

            With the mission to leave the world a happier, healthier place, the mother and daughter team who founded SkinnyDipped offer a variety of whole nuts “skinnydipped” in thin layers of a dark chocolate, milk chocolate or white chocolate. There’s cashews skinnydipped in a dark chocolate salted caramel, Milk Chocolate Peanuts, almonds in dark chocolate espresso and their Lemon Bliss–almonds in white chocolate with lemon. Low in calories, the ingredients are also non-GMO verified, gluten-free and contain no artificial ingredients. 

SkinnyDippers are now available nationwide at @walgreens! Snag a bag of Peanut Butter + Cocoa Almond to keep yourself fueled up when you’re on-the-go! To find out where else they’re available, click here.

SkinnyDipped Daughter & Mom

SkinnyDipped Peanut Butter Banana Pudding

• 2 cups almond milk

• 1 box (3.7 oz) organic vanilla instant pudding

• 2 bananas, sliced

• 1/2 cup natural peanut butter

• 1 cup Peanut Butter SkinnyDipped Almonds

To garnish:

• 4 dollops of whipped cream

• 1 tbsp natural peanut butter

• 1 tbsp crushed Peanut Butter SkinnyDipped

1. Start by preparing the pudding. Pour 2 cups almond milk into medium mixing bowl, add vanilla instant pudding and beat with an electric mixer for 2 minutes. Set aside.

2. In four jars, layer sliced bananas, peanut butter, SkinnyDipped and pudding mixture. Repeat layering until all ingredients have been used and refrigerate.

3. Before serving, top each jar with a dollop of whipped cream, a peanut butter drizzle and some crushed SkinnyDipped. Enjoy!

skinnydipped.com

Golden Raspberries: The Perfect End to Autumn

Amber colored with a touch of light pink, golden raspberries are a rare find compared to their red and black equivalents. But they’re worth the search.

“They taste like raspberries dipped in honey,” says Cindy Grewett who raises golden raspberries at Kitty Hill Organics, her 14-acre farm in Dowagiac, Michigan, a small town located close to the Indiana-Michigan border.

“Or candied raspberries,” adds her assistant Ashley Morris.

Golden raspberries at Kitty Hill Organics in Dowagiac, Michigan. Photo Jane Simon Ammeson.

“Have you ever tasted one?” Ron Goldy, Senior Extension Educator at the Southwest Michigan Research and Extension Center, Michigan State University, asks me when I call to get more details about golden raspberries and who else might be growing them in Southwest Michigan.

I tell him I have—Grewett sells them at the St. Joseph Farmers Market held on Saturdays on the bluff overlooking the pier and where the St. joseph River flows into Lake Michigan. People also stop by at the farm where she and her husband live in a 150-year-old farmhouse but it’s best to call ahead to make sure she hasn’t sold out.

Golden Raspberry Custard with Chocolate Sauce. Photo by Jane Simon Ammeson.

“They’re sweeter than red raspberries,” I say.

Cindy Grewett adds golden raspberries to a glass of Tabor Hill Sparkling Wine. Photo by Jane Simon Ammeson.

“But they still taste like raspberries,” Goldy says and he’s right.

I’ve never thought of red raspberries as anything but sweet and tasty. Yet compared to goldens they’re tough stuff with a taste that’s stronger and with just a little more bite.

They may be milder and sweeter but goldens are also more fragile than their black and red counterparts and
thus transporting them is a trickier and more expensive proposition as they’re more likely to bruise and crush.

Kitty Hill Organics. Photo by Jane Simon Ammeson.

“That’s one reason why people don’t grow them,” says Grewett.

“We know what we know– we all get used to eating things we know and are familiar with like red raspberries,” says Goldy, offering another reason why they aren’t as popular as reds.

There’s truth to that. How many of us have bought kohlrabi lately?

“I don’t know of anyone else growing them in the area,” he adds.

All this makes them more of niche market type of fruit, found more often at farmers’ markets than in stores.
There are other distinctions as well, Grewett explains.

Unlike red and black raspberries that have two growing seasons and often are referred to as everbearing, goldens fruit just once in late August and into September.

When looking for goldens, remember they’re also called by the rather bland name of yellow raspberries and the much more exciting champagne raspberries.

More golden raspberries. Photo by Jane Simon Ammeson.

Speaking of that bubbly drink, Maria Neville, owner of Body Logic in downtown St. Joseph suggested adding golden raspberries to a freshly poured glass of champagne, prosecco, or other sparkling wine. It’s about easy as can be except for getting the cork out of the bottle and but the look and taste is both elegant and spectacular. If you’re not in the mood for a cocktail, Grewett suggests adding goldens to seltzer water or lemonade.

“That is if you have any left,” she says, noting that they’re so tasty as is, they’re often consumed straight out of the box.

Grewett also likes goldens, a naturally muted strain of red raspberries, because of their health benefits.
“They’re full of vitamins B and C,” she says, adding that they also contain folic acid, iron, copper, and ellagic acid, a phenolic compound thought to prevent cancer. And despite their delicate looks, goldens are a powerhouse of dietary fiber accounting for approximately 20% of its weight.

Photo by Jane Simon Ammeson

Eating healthy and raising pesticide-free produce is one reason Grewett left a job as a hostess at Tosi’s Restaurant in Stevensville, Michigan one requiring her to dress in heels and formal wear and become a full-time farmer. She already was growing organic fruits, vegetables, meats and eggs for friends and family as well as for herself but wanted to make it easily available for others as well.

Now, when you stop by the farm, she’s typically wearing old jeans or shorts, t-shirts, thick gloves, and knee-high rubber boots good for mucking around in the dirt and mud.

“When people bring their children here and they see carrots or here and they see carrots or fresh beets growing out of the ground or raspberries on the vine they get so excited,” she says. “I like that they can pick and eat a tomato still warm from the sun and not have to worry about chemicals. It’s a great way to show kids—and adults—the connection to what we grow and what we eat.”

Cindy Grewett’ s Golden Raspberry Custard with Chocolate Sauce

2 cups milk

2 tablespoons butter, softened

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 tablespoons corn starch

1/3 cup sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

2 egg yolks, lightly beaten

Golden raspberries

Chocolate sauce

Place milk, butter and vanilla extract in a saucepan and cook at medium heat until mixture is simmering being sure to stir frequently so mixture doesn’t burn.

Remove mixture from heat before it comes to a boil. Mix cornstarch, sugar, salt, and egg yolks in a saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves.

Return milk and butter mixture to the stove and slowly add cornstarch mixture (if you add too quickly egg yolks will cook), whisking constantly until custard thickens enough to coat the bottom of a spoon, approximately 5 to 10 minutes.

Remove from heat. Let cool. Top with golden raspberries and then drizzle chocolate sauce over the custard. Serve.

Red & Golden Raspberry White Chocolate Napoleon. Photo courtesy of Driscoll’s Berries.

Red and Golden Raspberry White Chocolate Napoleon

Recipe courtesy of Driscoll’s Berries

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

4 ounces chopped white chocolate or white chocolate chips (about 2/3 cup)

4 ounces reduced fat cream cheese

1/2 cup part-skim or reduced fat ricotta cheese

1 1/3 cup each red and golden raspberries

3 sheets filo dough (14 x 18 inches each)

Confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside a second baking sheet and parchment paper of the same size.

Place one sheet of filo on work surface.

Brush with one-third butter and sprinkle with half sugar. Cover with the second sheet of filo, brush with one-third butter and sprinkle with remaining sugar. Lay third sheet of filo on top and brush with remaining butter. Trim filo edges evenly and cut stack into 18 rectangles, about 2-1/2 x 4-inches each.

Arrange rectangles in a single layer on parchment lined baking sheet. Cover with second piece of parchment and second baking sheet. (Bake in two batches if pieces don’t fit in one pan.) Bake 15 to 17 minutes until filo is golden brown, lifting top baking sheet to check. Transfer to wire rack to cool. Heat white chocolate in a glass or ceramic bowl in microwave 60 seconds, or just until chocolate is softened. Stir until melted. Stir in cream cheese and mix until smooth. Stir in ricotta and mix well. Mixture can be prepared up to four hours ahead, covered and refrigerated.

To assemble the layers, spread a thin layer (about 1 1/2 teaspoons) white chocolate and cheese mixture on each of the six filo pieces. Top with about 12 raspberries. Spread a layer of filling on six more filo pieces, place white chocolate side down over raspberries. Repeat filling and raspberries on each napoleon. Reserve 1 1/2 teaspoons white chocolate mixture and set aside.

Spread remaining white chocolate mixture on last six pieces of filo. Place white chocolate side down over berries. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and secure a raspberry on top each napoleon with a dab of the reserved white chocolate mixture. Serve within 30 minutes.