Shari Brown and Tim Magner co-founded Truck Farm Chicago last year with a vision. That vision was how to create an approachable, fun, and mobile way for kids to learn about food education and the importance of healthy living. With Shari’s passion for farming education and Tim’s work with Green Sugar Press (a hands on approach to educating kids through the nature’s resources), Truck Farm Chicago was born. The project started as a fun, unique and creative way to bring gardening and nutrition education to children all over the city. Especially those who may not otherwise get to see how food grows up close, experience pulling a fresh strawberry off a plant, or dig their hands into fresh earthy soil. Last year was their pilot season, which was hugely successful. With tons of potential and a launch of the second season, we ask you all to help “kick start” (no pun intended, the truck works just fine) into full gear this season!
Big lights, big city, big guts. The city of Chicago is not necessarily known for its health conscious people and lean cuisine. I don’t know another city in the country where every block there are about 5 restaurants featuring some sort of beer, wing, or pizza deal. It is obnoxious at times, but it’s also one of the reasons that make this city so great. Everything is accessible, comfortably priced, and you better damn well believe its delicious. But how do you manage your indulgences in a city where every week a new restaurant opens up featuring a pork three way sandwich, chorizo calamari, or truffle aioli sweet potato fries? That’s what they are known for you have to try them! I bet you said to yourself “oooh, that does sound good” too. See what I mean? One of the reasons I was hesitant to move back to Chicago is because of how hard it is to stay in good shape year round. I feel like I am constantly working out everyday to stay fat and make sure I don’t have to take cholesterol medicine at 25. It is especially hard for someone like me in the line of work I am in and the interest I have in eating the best, tastiest, and unique cuisines in town. I happen to have a laundry list of restaurants I have been to that I should probably start selling. Last time I lived in Chicago working the stress induced 60-hour workweek, eating at the best restaurants, and not being phased that a Lou Malnatis pizza has enough density to crush a Fiat Convertible, you could imagine I was not feeling too good about myself. This time ladies and gentleman it is going to be different. I have found a way to eat what I want at restaurants and stay in decently good shape. After all you have to enjoy life somehow, right?
Moving away from Chicago last March I picked up eating farm fresh local goods. Living in Southwest Florida for a split second I got a taste of the healthy life by visiting and becoming friends with the people at the farmers markets and some of the farmers themselves. We would grab our bok choys, Japanese baby eggplants, tomatoes, peppers, and herbs and really appreciate what we could create. I would go to my friend Simon’s surf shack, we would make our own roasted tomatillo salsa, grill some skirt steaks and tortillas, and listen to some reggae while enjoying the company of friends over some Modelo’s and ocean breeze. It was a good life. I remember there was one time I went to a pizza party at a mutual friends house who had a homemade brick oven in his backyard. We even picked the veggies and herbs we wanted on our pizza from his garden he started in the bow of a boat. It was awesome. Ever since, I have been supporting local farmers and highlighting their products in my own cooking creations. Little did I know, with a normal workout routine, eating this type of farm fresh food, cooking for myself even if it was pizza and some beer, I was starting to see some good results.
Moving back to Chicago, living in a high rise, and not having great weather year round, it is harder to find that product and make the most out of it. You can hit the gym, bikram yoga, and take a crossfit class, but not much progress is going to be made unless it starts with your diet. Now I am no David Zinczenko or follower of all of these rules, but I do know what it takes to get in shape in a big city.
Join a CSA
First order of business is to join a CSA (community supported agriculture). Community-Supported Agriculture is also known as “subscription farming.” You buy a subscription from a local farmer just like you buy a subscription to a magazine. But instead of receiving an issue each week, you receive a “share” of fresh, locally grown or raised fruit and/or vegetables. Some farmers also offer CSA subscriptions for farm-fresh eggs, and/or meats. This way you are almost forced to use your products to make your meals with and figure out what to make with what you are given that week. You are obviously not going to get tomatoes in May or avocados in December so you really never know what you are going to get. Not to mention it is less expensive then going to the grocery store every week.
Here is a link to CSA’s in the Chicagoland area http://www.familyfarmed.org/find-a-chicago-area-csa/
Save it for the Weekends
This is probably the hardest part for me. How do I keep my indulgences for the weekend when my weekends sometimes can start Monday night? It really is a double edge sword from what I am realizing. If you pass up on 25 cent wing trivia night at Kincade’s on Thursday you are considered a hermit, but if you go you are just going to pound pitchers and wings and ruin your streak. There is no right answer here but there is a way to control it. Beer is the hardest part about Chicago- we love our beer. With Craft beers popping up left and right it is hard to avoid a delicious brewsky during the game or just out with the boys. In order to minimize your intake, drink a nice dry stout like a Guinness. Dark is deceiving but it actually is one of the best beers for you. Try and eat beforehand and come a little late so your friends are already done eating so you are not tempted for round two. There really is no easy way around this one, but think of it as saving money by eating at home and still being able to enjoy a few beers out with the boys. Wait for the weekends to have your day trolley beer fests and Kuma burgers.
Find you Spirit and drink it straight
One of the biggest things for me is avoiding beer. It is convenient, cheap, and the best drink alongside a meal. I’ve noticed the largest difference in switching over to a spirit with less calories and drinking it on the rocks. My drink of choice is a Stoli on the rocks with lemon or a Glen 12 scotch straight up. Takes some real training to get use to but you will notice that you are not packing on the calories, having a much more clear headed buzz and really limits the hangover if you able to control your late night cravings. Which leads me into my next point of action.
Don’t eat late
This should be a no-brainer but if you are under the influence and don’t give a crap it is hard to avoid. If I am out on the town and need a quick bite I try not to walk. If I walk, I stop somewhere, enough said. Grab a cab or take a bus. When I get home and need something, I freeze peanut butter balls on parchment paper with a little chocolate chip inside. This is a sweet, protein packed, and delicious mouth popper for those types of nights. During the week, drink a lot of water and try and get to bed early. It seems to work for me.
Go to the Green City Market
Lastly, one of my favorites that does go on year round whether it is inside or out is the Green City Market. Farmers, artisans, and other merchants from the Midwest gather to provide the best craft goods from meats to fish to pastas to veggies. Eating this sort of pure, organic, and healthy food will instantly help with your diet and quality of food. Building relationships with the vendors will also give you more of an appreciation to what they do for a living and make you want to eat better and support them. It all starts with what you eat and if you can manage that in your own home, the temptation of everything else doesn’t seem that difficult.
(Photo: Courtesy of Banksy)
If you have any questions, comments, or dreams please email me, Jason Klarfeld at firstname.lastname@example.org
For the average consumer, talking about food has evolved into an omnipresent trend taking over our television screens, newspapers, and the Internet. It’s hard to turn the corner without seeing a cheeseburger or pasta dish with a description that sound like they ripped it straight out of a Julie Garwood romance novel. Buzz words like “food porn” have taken the main stage capitalizing on appealing to all of the senses where you find yourself craving, salivating, longing for whatever it is that is getting you all hot and heavy. Good food photography and wording is so prevalent in the food scene here in Chicago that walking down Hubbard Street can easily be mistaken for the Red Light District. It is a bit sinful in nature but restaurants, bloggers, and food stores have utilized this art form to turn their businesses into revenue generating cash cows.
Food related businesses are not the only ones partaking in the art of food expressions- we are all upping our vocabulary to see how we can bring food to life. I have discovered while dining with others over the past couple of years that there are roughly three types of diners: The Posh, The Stoner, and The Perv.
This diner is the one who doesn’t necessarily know a ton about food or what they are eating but sure likes to think they do. I have spent several occasions with these types of diners and from what I see, you could stick a White Castle burger in front of them and they will still role their eyes in the back of their head in awestruck, so long as they are sitting at THE restaurant in town. I once was on a date at an Italian restaurant in New York and as the night progressed, The Posh Diner came out to play. Definitely a nice restaurant and you could tell she was very excited to go. Walking up to the hostess I could already tell she was the posh type who knew exactly how much she was going to love the meal before she even looked at the menu. The wine came, and of course she swirled it in her mouth followed by a careful swallow.
In the back of my head I knew this bottle is an $8.99 twist off at Binnys. The calamari came, which was very good but she looked as if she was touched by an angel. When the main course came I had the clams and linguini (that is how I judge Italian restaurants), and she had the squid ink pasta. I knew the grand finale was coming. Her first bite was slurped down and as her eyes gazed back up at me with black ink on her lips and front teeth says,
That was the last time I saw her. Be wary of the posh diner, they are known for making up words too.
Posh Diner Lingo: divine, breathtaking, delicate, masterful, succulent, fake words.
Whether you are a product of the flower generation or just an adapter of the language, The Stoner believe it or not is one of my most frequent partners in dining. You do not have to be on the happy grass to talk the talk because food is a drug to me and can provide me with the same high as Uncle Mel seeing the Dead in ’76. My little brother and I are good examples of The Stoner diner. When we eat or cook something so amazing, so delicious, there are few words that can describe the actual food itself. I am not a user of illegal substances and neither is my brother, but words that only a smelly tye dye wearing tween eating at Taco Bell seems to be what spills our of our mouths.
“That chicken is fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiirrrrrrrrrreeeeeee!!!!”
Followed by a,
What? My brother and I even came up with a restaurant idea called the Dank Tank where we would create some of the most eccentric and bold foods that we enjoy to put on the menu. There is even a list of potential dishes titled, “Dank Tank”, in my phone. Maybe it was the knuckleheads I grew up around in high school or just the bad habits that stuck with me, but the lingo used to depict drugs and food goes hand in hand. After all, it is ecstasy.
The Stoner Diner Lingo: dank, fire, heat, potent, skunky, the ish, money.
The final diner lingo is probably the most overused yet effective when describing food. It wets the palate, it paints the picture, it tingles the taste buds, it makes you want to $#%^ the *$@# out of it! Yes, The Perv is the one who literally thinks food is sex, sex is food. Although some can be argued to be aphrodisiacs, The Perv has no shame when describing the euphoric and x-rated experience he or she had with their meal. It might sound a bit unappealing but it triggers the senses in the brain that everyone can relate to. You have dined with these people and you might have actually slept with them because of it. The Perv is the one that brings all the details to the forefront and really at the end of the day makes you say, “I want that”.
The Perv Lingo: Leave that up to your imagination
Whether it is a luxury, drugs, or sex, food can easily be substituted in any conversation. These types of diners raise curiosity to have the same experience and feeling they once had. It is the ultimate sales pitch and most people don’t even know they are giving it. Next time you find yourself up against one of these contenders, try to stay in your seat before you fall victim to the weakness of dining lingo.
(Image courtesy of: foodbeast.com)
If you have any questions, comments, or dreams please email me, Jason Klarfeld at email@example.com
Do me a favor. Count out how many times you have come home and asked, “what’s for dinner?” and the answer is usually, “chicken”. Probably more then you can think of, right? It’s never, “chicken and…. steak and…. fish and….” The protein is usually painstakingly thought through while the side is left, well, out. Typically last minute you pull the Ore Ida’s out of the freezer and regardless of how refined the Chicken Marengo is, it will still be served with a side of lukewarm crinkle fries. Your time has come as an epicure to start utilizing the full definition of the term “meal” and making a side that matters.
One huge factor that most cooking households overlook is completely passing up opportunity in incorporating more nutritional value to a meal. Greens, good carbohydrates, and all sorts of fibers are all great daily nutrients that sometimes are missed out on. Not to mention, switching it up isn’t such a bad thing either. Curry cauliflower one day, soba noodles in a sweet Asian sauce the next. All take about 5 minutes total to make. I challenge you to put the Krunchers back in the pantry and give your body something it deserves in flavor, nutritional value, and sanity. Next time you hear chicken and…hopefully you can fill in the blank.
Here is a solid recipe I throw in the mix every once in a while and it always satisfies my guests. Sweet, earthy, nutty, and if you need a little extra hair on the chest, add bacon crumbles.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Grapes and Walnuts
(Recipe Courtesy of lajollamom.com)
If you have any questions, comments, or dreams please email me, Jason Klarfeld at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bond. James Bond.
The ultimate man of mystery where driving fast cars and fighting off international threats in an Armani tuxedo is all in a good days work. His unpretentiousness posts up at a cocktail bar commanding with confidence his drink of choice and with poise, hooks the attention of the stunning woman in a red cocktail dress. He always gets the girl. 007 is the alpha male who has fed into our escapism for over 60 years and still to this day is shown on our movie screens for two hours so we can get a taste of what it feels like to be a “Renaissance Man”.
James Bond is not real, and probably for the best. Or else we would be sopping in our own jealousy of someone THAT awesome. There are people out there that are probably pretty close, but the reality is it gives us something to strive for, the potential of being a jack-of-all-trades. While we might not all have his striking looks, calm yet confident demeanor, or the ability to shoot guns with pinpoint precision, there is an opportunity to enhance our lives to present some of these qualities. Food and drink is a safe place to start. Here are a few tips that will help you become a bit more savvy and impressive.
Filet a Fish
Becoming a Renaissance Man is all about knowing how to execute from start to finish. Make shifting when necessary to get the job done. When asked if you know how to filet a fish is like being asked these days if you know how to drive a stick shift. Most don’t but probably should. It is not an easy task- takes precision, attention to detail, and patience. But once you master the technique you will be plugging through whole fish like you are Justo Thomas at Le Bernardin. Not to mention buying a whole fish straight from the monger is much more sustainable and saves you money that would normally be tacked on at your local grocery store. So take it as an edge up on James Bond himself, I have never seen him clean, debone, and filet a beautiful piece of Grouper so take pride in gaining this knowledge. Point you, Bond zero.
Cooking Pasta the Right Way
Now here is something Chef Scott Conant would tell you is critical in creating a perfectly simple dish. Know how to cook your pasta. I know it sounds so simple, but it is amazing how you can take it to a new level if done correctly. The good old Pareto 80/20 rule states that 80% of the efforts comes from 20% of the causes. This goes the same for pasta. Cooking the pasta in boiling water 80% of the way through and the other 20% in the sauce is what makes the dish marry. If you know how to make home make fresh pasta that adds as bonus points. The simplest dishes are sometimes the most difficult to execute but it truly makes a difference when you can really create a symphony out of a meal by treating it with care and quality. Two Points you, Bond zero.
Know Your Scotch
Here is where you and Bond might have a little bit of a battle over. The man knows his drinks. He knows a good Vesper Martini, Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, and then add a large slice of lemon-peel. But we are beyond the vodka game. Heck, we are even past wines. To be a real man of class and stature, have a little background on scotch and find what you like. Which one is best for you? Some are more vibrant in character than others, but they also vary in dryness and sweetness, fullness and lightness, crispness and roundness, assertiveness and elegance; in nose, body, palate and finish. A light, dry, aromatic malt may be better to right before a nice dinner; a fuller, sweeter, rounder one afterwards. A soft malt may be soothing after a stroll; a heavier, smokier one for a nightcap. There is a stroke of excellence when you can massage a scotch order and lets just say a basic knowledge is a great launch point to add to your impressive know how. Three Points you, Bond zero.
Here are more fun links to scotch favorites from ehow.com
The party is right around the corner, and you are aimlessly surfing recipe websites for the sexiest dish to impress your friends with. When you arrive at the store with your envisioned dish in mind and ingredients list in hand you cannot wait to fancy the crowd. Then, 15 minutes later, you find yourself putting ingredients back on the shelves and in aisle sixteen picking up the frozen bag of piggy’s in a blanket. No more element of surprise, no more challenge, you gave up by taking the easy route.
You pull up to the house, piggy’s in hand, wearing your best outfit knowing you are about to get ravenous on the buffet line. You try to tell yourself that you are not going to splurge but cannot keep that promise. Everyone is inside with their drinks, mingling, acting all innocent when in the back of the mind they just want to see the lineup. You put your little hot dogs on the table with wandering eyes trying to get a road map of what is ahead for the evening. It’s almost time to indulge.
The curtain unveils and everyone curiously marches towards the dining room acting as if they have never done this before. The seductive stares of the dishes reel the barbaric crowd in and the assembly line begins. Some old favorites, some new, some heavy, some petite, a few duplicates, an untouched questionable and typically a main event for everyone to share. What starts out as a modest small plate turns into seconds, then thirds, and some grazing towards the latter half of the evening. Everyone seems happy, has a few more drinks and eventually is ready to leave.
You walk out with your chin down and half a bag of piggy’s in a blanket. Getting in your car you take a deep breath with regret. You are facing guilt towards your gluttony and the discomfort of your pants compressing against the hips. This sense of shame lingers over you that you just mildly satisfied your sinful cravings for an hour or so and this feeling was not worth it. No one judged you while you were there, because everyone else is feeling the same sense of indignity. You see your friends and co-workers the next day as if nothing happened; the party was never spoken of again.
Everybody has his or her own signature dish, the go-to, the self-proclaimed ” (insert name here) World Famous”. With March Madness around the corner it is time to step up your game after you flopped at the office Super Bowl Party trying to get crazy on a corn flake potato casserole. How could you mess that up!?!
To be honest with you, I am sick of going to these parties expecting to eat the same thing ie. club sandwiches, chips, 7-layer dips, cupcake cookies that aren’t even good but you feel obligated to have a minimum of four. Let me tell you something, its time to spice up these gatherings and it does not take a classically trained culinaire to make it happen. There is no need to recreate the wheel or try and get all “gastronomical” on everyone. Find a simple dish, practice it, perfect it, and be known for it. Steal it from someone else if you have to. We are not all chefs, and to be frank we do not all like to cook, but it is important to have that one that knocks everyone’s socks off. It would be nice if we could make somewhat healthier dishes as well so we don’t feel the shame of gluttony in the car on the way home- but that’s just me. Here is another tip, better ingredients makes for better food. I don’t mean to get all Papa John’s on you but Papa John is right about this one. You are going to get a much better result with fresh veggies than frozen ones, butchered meat than packaged. It’s a fact, so go online and pick something that looks doable and keep doing it. So the next time you are trying to impress your partner, attending a potluck, or this upcoming Final Four, you will be the memorable one. Own it.
Here is my favorite dish to make and heck, it can be yours as well!
Turkey Chili Verde With Hominy And Squash
This dish is versatile. It has nice bold flavors, hearty, yet good for you and does not sit heavy at all. Works well for any time of year and occasion. Not a bad cold leftover either. I source my ingredients locally for a better result.
Saute Sausage with Olive Oil in a large pot on high heat (if possible, grill sausages half way before for a nice char)
Add onion, oregano, garlic and continue sautéing for 2 minutes.
Add Hominey and 1/2 cup cilantro.
Add Squash and Enchilada Sauce cover, reduce to medium heat and cook until tender, approximately 15 minutes.
Top with remaining cilantro and serve hot.
(serve with grilled tortillas)