News & Features

Raising a Fit Foodie

January 31 2013 - 9:00 AM

With home economics phased out of schools and a growing obesity epidemic, it’s more important than ever to empower kids with life skills and experience to prevent unhealthy habits. So how do you raise a fit foodie?

As you prepare your list of New Year Resolutions, keep the entire family in mind, especially the kids. It’s much more effective to SHAPE healthy habits than BREAK unhealthy ones. Children from families who practice healthy habits together are more likely to grow into healthier adults.

Healthy habits start at home – and the earlier, the better. Here are six tips to get started.

1. Get the kids in the kitchen!

Preparing food together is an opportunity to spend quality time and cultivate family traditions, and giving kids even the smallest task when cooking a meal increases the likelihood that they will eat it. This is a great way to introduce new foods and dishes to finicky eaters. I recommend Vivi’s Cookbook for low-stress, kid-friendly recipes that always include an instruction designed to help you share a giggle.

2. Give your kids age-appropriate portions sizes and talk to them about moderation.

Offer a variety of healthy “anytime” and “every day” foods without depriving them of their favorite “sometimes” foods (follow the links for mercifully simple, kid-friendly exercise to talk to kids about what these terms mean). Avoid associating either term as good or bad because no food should be off limits in a child with a healthy relationship with food.

3. Introduce fruits and vegetables. 

Eating well gets a bad rap, but with a little creativity and a positive attitude, you’ll be surprised how kids react to fruits and veggies! According to a recent study published in the Journal Preventive Medicine, the technique of rebranding vegetables to elementary school kids using creative names increased consumption at lunch.

“Giving anything a name goes a long way for making somebody believe it will taste better,” said the lead author of the study, Brian Wansink, a professor of marketing and director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University. Practically speaking, don’t ask your kids to try cauliflower, ask if they would like to try some “crunchy clouds!” This approach will entice kids and cultivate an interest to try “new” foods.

4. Get active!

When inclement weather keeps kids inside, prevent them from falling into a techno-electro-coma by encouraging activities that require movement. Put on some music and have a dance party or get creative and suggest they pretend to be a snake or march like a toy soldier across the house.

5. Stay hydrated without adding extra calories. 

We all know water is vital – aiding in digestion, building the immune system, maintaining body fluids, etc. But staying hydrated is easy to overlook. Avoid making juice or milk the go-to drink of choice. Offer a glass of water to re-energize after the dance party. Teach kids to enjoy water by adding a slice of fruit or serving it in a fancy glass with a silly straw.

6. Don’t forget to laugh. 

And last but not least, share a laugh with your kid every day. Laughing releases endorphins that reduce stress levels, increases feelings of self-worth, and creates positive associations with non-food sources of pleasure. This can decrease the chance kids will seek their pleasure from food sources. In addition to the health benefits, laughing together is great for your relationship.

It’s best not to tackle all of these goals at once, take on one at a time till you’ve established household habits that put your family on their way to a healthier & happier year. provides parents, teachers, and caregivers of children ages 3-8 with free interactive wellness education tools. The program helps children establish healthy relationships with food by teaching moderation and portion control while motivating and rewarding good choices. The unique program can be incorporated into home or school early education reading or P.E. curriculums without adding an additional subject to time crunched school schedules.

Jonelle Galuska is the founder and creator of Vivi LeDish children’s character and the companion website,  Her experience living in Europe, where the obesity rates are much lower than the United States despite abundant food supplies and a lack of “low fat” and “diet” products, inspired her to rethink the way we teach children healthy habits in the United States. This prompted her and her business partner to create a kitchen and wellness program for kids ages 3-8.


Hot Toddy Time

January 28 2013 - 1:00 PM

The origins of the hot toddy are murky, but like all good cocktail and spirit stories, it was at one point considered medicine. (And in some circles — my own included — it still is.) FDA approval or not, it’s hard not to see how a combination of warming, strong and spiced wouldn’t make any sick person at least happier, if not healthier.

But whether you are sick or not, Chicago’s current deep freeze calls for some serious cocktail medicine. The classic hot toddy is an easily assembled affair… and one that doesn’t require you go out and pick up anything obscure (or expensive).

A few tips before we get started:

  •  Warm your mug with hot water before adding the drink by pouring in some plain hot water, swirling, and tossing it out. This will keep your toddy toasty longer.
  •  Some people like lots of floating bits in their hot toddy to remind them how rustic it is. Others like flavor without gunk. I’m somewhere in the middle, so rather than build my drink in the mug,  I will stir most of it in a mixing glass and strain before topping with water and garnishes.
  •  Be gentle with the water. It will lengthen and expand the flavors of the drink, but it is possible to go overboard and dilute things to a weak mush.

The Classic Hot Toddy

  • 2 oz bourbon
  • 3/4 oz honey
  • 4 oz boiling water (plus more to pre-warm your cup)
  • 2 lemon wedges
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Holiday spices (e.g. cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise), garnish
  • Lemon wedge studded with cloves, garnish

Place a few lemon wedges in the bottom of a mixing glass and add the sugar and bitters. Muddle the sugar into the lemon peels, bringing out the oils and juicing the pulp in the process. Add the whiskey and stir to incorporate.

Warm a coffee mug with hot water, then discard. Strain the whisky mix through a mesh strainer into the mug (to keep out the pulp and lemon rinds), then add the hot water and the honey. Throw in some holiday spices, – maybe a broken cinnamon stick, a pinch of nutmeg, or a star anise, — and garnish with a fresh lemon wedge studded with cloves.

Hot Toddy

As delicious as the classic is, though, what makes the hot toddy such a popular drink this time of year is its adaptability. Whisky may be the most common base spirit, but nearly any dark spirit will do. Try it with brandy, dark rum, barrel-aged aquavit or even French Calvados. Swap out the hot water for tea to impart an additional layer of flavor or change up the sweetener.  Even the bitters are up for grabs.

With this playfulness in mind, I came up with a tequila-based toddy that is a delicious combination of flavors that packs just a touch of heat. Totally unlike the classic in taste, but nearly the same in outline, let this unusual tipple be inspiration for you to go out and make your own variation.

Flor de Jamaica

  • 1 1/2 oz tequila
  • 1/2 oz lime juice
  • 1/2 oz agave syrup
  • small piece of ancho chile
  • 3 dashes chocolate bitters
  • pinch of salt
  • 4-6 oz hot hibiscus tea

Muddle the ancho in the bottom of a mixing glass and add the tequila, bitters and lime. Stir to combine and strain into a warmed mug. Top with the hot hibiscus tea and stir in the agave and a pinch of salt.

Flor de Jamaica

— David McCowan

News & Features

Some Changes Around here.

January 28 2013 - 8:45 AM

This new year brings some changes. After 8 years running Chicago Foodies, I’ll be turning over the daily grind to our new Chicago Editor,  Marly Schuman. In the meantime, I’ll be spending my time eating my way through New York City. Considering my foodie frame of reference is all things Chicago, it stands to reason a weekly head to head Chicago, vs. New York… Food vs. Food is in order. If anyone’s got some burning questions or hypotheses, let me know! Not only will you be able to follow this battle of cities on ChicagoFoodies, we will also extend it to, wait for it…. NewYorkFoodies.

We’ve been kicking a can for a while on that site but hopefully this past year’s redesign will make a quick extension to the coast. Our long time readers will remember Crystal Cun and her wonderful point of view. She happens to be in NY as well. Maybe she’ll be open to getting the band back together. She’s dragging me to Pok Pok tonight. We’ll see… but back to Chicago.

Marly brings a focus on vegetarian home cooking that I can admire. Hopefully she will continue to inspire me and my tiny NY kitchen will become a crucible for refined flavor (see I’m getting all NY’ey already). If you haven’t already liked us on Facebook, or followed us on Twitter, please do and keep us honest. Transitions are fun and lead to new things. As long as those new things are food-things, we’ll all be better for it. If you have something to say (not sell!), we have an open door policy.

Welcome, officially, Marly!

Home Cooking

Winter Farro Salad

January 25 2013 - 1:00 AM

I’ve learned that sometimes the best salads don’t have any lettuce. Especially in the winter, a cold plate of lettuce just doesn’t always sound appetizing. I love salads that have some substance to them. Plenty of vegetables, grains and a unique combination of flavors. This farro salad is just that.

Farro is the new trendy grain that has been popping up on restaurant menus and in supermarket aisles. Trader Joe’s now markets quick-cooking farro, which is what I used for my salad. Farro looks like oatmeal when cooked but has a similar taste to a risotto with a nutty undertone. It’s full of fiber, low in gluten and has tons of vitamins. It’s the perfect vehicle for a salad and an easy side for any meal.

I chose to use the vegetables I had in my kitchen, and you can substitute whatever you have on hand. I think it’s best to use cooked vegetables so you can serve this salad warm as well as cold. I loved the combination of colors from the charred, orange carrots, deep green kale and specks of sundried tomatoes. You get some sweetness from the carrots, a hearty flavor from the mushroom and a hint of earthiness from the silky kale. The sundried tomatoes are chewy and hold up well in the salad.

The dressing really brings everything together, and I would highly recommend making it. It’s full of basil, nutty parmesan and has some great creaminess from the yogurt. The honey helps cut a bit of the bitterness from the herbs, and it’s a perfect compliment to this sweeter salad. It isn’t easy to make, yet it’s not that hands on. Just throw your veggies in the oven while your farro cooks, and you’ll have a worthwhile salad.

Get the full Warm Winter Farro Salad Recipe here and see the Creamy Basil Dressing recipe here >


News & Features

Rockit's 5th Annual ChiliFEST

January 23 2013 - 9:00 AM

If there’s one thing Chicagoans can agree on right now, it’s the fact that it’s insanely frigid in the Windy City. What better way to warm up than with some hearty chili offerings on a downright chilly day. This week marks the 5th annual ChiliFEST at Rockit Bar & Grill in River North.

Executive Chef Amanda Downing has prepared a selection of five different chili offerings, one for each day this week (January 21-25). Additionally, Rockit is offering a few other chili-centric dishes including chili cheese fries and chili mac.  I recently had the opportunity to taste test several of the specialty chilis and was blown away by the different flavor combinations of each.

First up was the Chili Mac, featuring a cheese blend of cheddar jack, gorgonzola and parmesan, topped with turkey chili and more cheddar jack. I loved the creamy texture of the spiral noodle mac, as well as the sharp flavor from the gorgonzola. This was definitely one of my favorites. How can you go wrong with a little spruced up mac ‘n cheese?

Chil Mac

I also sampled the chili cheese fries, which started with a bed of Rockit’s steak fries and were topped with the same turkey chili, cheddar cheese and sliced jalapenos. I love the combination of chili and cheddar but wasn’t crazy about the texture of the fries. They tended to get a bit soggy from the overloaded toppings.

Chili Fries

I also sampled three of the Fest’s alternative chili offerings: an Andouille, Bacon and Vegan version. The Andouille chili had delicious chunks of savory sausage as well as black-eyed peas and shredded white cheddar. This was definitely on the mild side when it comes to spice, but the flavoring of the sausage really pulled through.

Andouille Chili

The Bacon Chili featured cubes of braised pork belly that were soft, smoky and oozing with flavor. This variety arrived topped with tortilla strips, adding a nice contrast to the chewiness of the pork belly. This was hands-down my favorite chili. It also had more of a kick to it than the Andouille chili but slightly less spice than the final Vegan chili that I tried. The slightly sweet flavor went perfectly with the hint of beer.

Bacon Chili

The Vegan chili was probably my least favorite of the trio, but it still held its own. The meatless version included soy sausage, lentils and edamame, for a nice added crunch. The chili strings on top made it the spiciest of the three.

Vegan Chili

Chef Amanda continues to create inventive takes on a classic winter staples, and it was great to sample these not-so-ordinary chili varieties. Be sure to check the menu for Rockit’s ChiliFEST for the next few days because a different special is available each day. Each specialty chili is available for $10 at both lunch and dinner. Check out the full ChiliFEST menu here.

What’s your favorite type of chili? Comment below, and let us know what you think!

News & Features

An Open Letter to Restaurants

January 21 2013 - 1:00 PM

Dear Restaurants:

Let me start by saying that I fully understand and appreciate that operating a business like yours is difficult, especially in a down economy. I also understand that anyone can have a bad day. Additionally, I am 42 years old, which precludes me from caring (translate: having the time/inclination) to share specific opinions about any of you on Yelp. Many of you provide me with wonderful food on a regular basis, and for that I am always grateful.

However, some of you have picked up some habits that prevent me from wanting to return to your establishments. Which is a shame, because this isn’t about food quality. If your food is bad, I can’t help you. This is Chicago. Get it right, or get gone. We have a lot of fantastic options at every price point and in every style/format/ethnicity, so if you can’t figure out how to deliver delicious, you are on your own. This is about the experience of eating in your establishment. For what it is worth, my top five pet peeves:

1) Turn the music down and the lights up.

How loud you blast The Ramones in your kitchen is up to you. Rock out to your heart’s content. But if I wanted my eardrums to bleed I’d head for the Double Door. I’m likely sitting across the table from someone I’d actually like to have a conversation with and don’t want to end up hoarse for three days. If you have taken even a modicum of care with what you put on the plate, I’d like to see what it is I’m eating. I hate that stupid “you eat with your eyes first” adage almost as much as I hate the phrase “flavor profile” or the trend to call everything on the planet “curated.” But I don’t want to have to squint at my menu, peer through the dim to find my pork chop or wonder if my pot de crème is chocolate or vanilla.

2) Don’t clear plates until everyone has finished.

I do not care whether you are high-end fine dining or a casual neighborhood joint, this is, without a doubt, the height of rudeness. If you are a fast eater, getting your plate whisked away while everyone else is only halfway through their meal makes you feel self-conscious and piggy. And it means that if your dining partners want to share a nibble of something, you don’t have a vessel or utensils in front of you to facilitate their generosity.

If you are a slow eater, watching everyone else’s plates disappear around you makes you feel like you need to speed up, or simply abandon half of your meal uneaten so that you don’t feel like you are keeping your dining partners from their next course. It has become so pervasive that I find myself adding a bonus 5% to the tip anywhere my server asks “Is everyone done?” before clearing.

3) List food preparations on your menu.

Duck/licorice/arugula/sardine/fingerling/leek could be the best thing I will ever put in my mouth. Or it could taste like barnyard compost dunked in Jaegermeister. Only Grant Achatz is Grant Achatz, and he isn’t a la carte for a reason. For the rest of you, it is precocious and stupid. Seventy four percent of people* choose entrees based on the sides that come with the protein. When you pretentiously give us a list of ingredients and expect we should Karnak them into a delicious dish in our minds, you just look like you care more about the graphic design of the menu than the content of your plates. Your waitstaff hates you for making them deliver long-winded explication a million times a night. Your guests hate listening to the explanations over and over, including overhearing it all over again at the nearby tables.

Isn’t this what menus are for? Please note: I’m not delighted with those of you who go too far in the other direction either. I don’t care if my “Carpaccio of Line-Caught Sustainable Patagonian Toothfish” is “Snuggled up to conflict free Oregon Muscat grape compote with hand-harvested Manuka Honey lightly whipped during a full moon by Samoan Tribal Elders” and “Fanned counter-clockwise atop a pilaf of Kyoto Cherry Blossom Scented Amish Millet.” This to me is just as egregious as fish/grape/honey/millet. In case you are keeping track.

4) Get. Comfortable. Chairs.

Forget what your cousin the interior designer suggests and take someone with you to test seating options who is 220 lbs or more. You are in the Midwest. We are a hearty generous abundant people. You can give me amazing food, but if I have to surgically remove your delicate ethereal twig of a chair from my ample ass at the end of the meal, I’m not only not going to linger for dessert and another cocktail and coffee, I’m taking you off my list.

5) Get the wine right. 

Most of you are serving your whites too cold and your reds too warm. Just FYI.

Yours in Good Taste,


*at least in my mind and based on my poll of my immediate family

Home Cooking

How to Cook a Steak by Dropping it From Space

January 16 2013 - 9:01 AM

While I am a fly-by-night foodie, my day job is that of PhD student in physics. As such, I (a) am quite a dork, and (b) tend to think a lot in numbers. Therefore, one of my favorite spots on the internet is the webcomic XKCD and its subsite, What if?.

What if? takes ridiculously silly questions from readers such as, “If you went outside and lay down on your back with your mouth open, how long would you have to wait until a bird pooped in it?”, and answers with a straight face and the full weight of science.

The most recent post on the site, though, may be of particular interest to Chicago Foodies. A reader asks, “From what height would you need to drop a steak for it to be cooked when it hit the ground?” In a nutshell, an object falling from the sky compress the air in front of it which in turn causes it to heat up. (Think about reentering space shuttles or meteorites).

The punchline? This is a terrible way to cook a steak unless you like Pittsburgh rare… and you can only get that if you drop it from space.

So, while I don’t expect to see this popping up on Moto’s next menu, I do get giddy over seeing someone honestly try to assess the structural integrity of an 8 oz. sirloin as it travels twice the speed of sound, or the likelihood that it is partially frozen and shatters upon impact.

News & Features

Chicago Restaurant Week 2013 Preview

January 14 2013 - 9:00 AM

If you’ve never done Chicago Restaurant Week, you’re missing out on an incredible, gluttonous tradition to try out new restaurants you wouldn’t try otherwise. Restaurant Week this year is February 1-10, and the lineup of participating restaurants is quite impressive. If you’re going to do it right, you have to get started…last week…getting your Restaurant Week crew together and making your reservations. The best spots book up quickly, and you might already be too late for some of the top picks. Here are some of our recommendations:


NAHA has become sort of a hidden gem among the trendy River North hotspots.  Just because it’s been around a little while doesn’t mean it’s any less amazing. Just check out the picture above from last year. NAHA’s regular menu is quite pricey – and worth every penny, don’t get me wrong. So the Restaurant Week offerings always deliver year after year. The $22 lunch special is a great way to go if you work in the area and can’t make it in for dinner. We featured it in our Restaurant Week highlights from 2012 for a reason. 

 2. BellyQ

While you don’t need to try BellyQ for price reasons, you will want to order everything on the menu, which is reason enough to check it out. This new West Loop spot is doing Restaurant Week for the first time in style. With Vietnamese cinnamon doughnuts, of course. There are some other delicious options  for the other courses, and you won’t be disappointed. See the full list of new participating restaurants here >

3. Perennial Virant

Entrees at Perennial will run you about $30, so the Restaurant Week menu will cut you a deal no matter what you get. It’s hard to be disappointed at this aesthetically beautiful restaurant with such fresh seasonal ingredients highlighted. All of the BOKA restaurants are great options for Restaurant Week, especially if you’ve never been before. If you have more room in your schedule and your stomach, see if you can fit in GT Fish & Oyster and Balena as well.

4. Trenchermen

If you’re in Wicker Park and haven’t tried out Trenchermen yet, hurry as fast as you can to this nautical wonder. This is another  spot affordable enough that you don’t have to go during Restaurant Week, but the deal will let you try more on the menu. You’re going to want to try all three courses when you can start with pickle tots and end with waffle ice cream.

Where are you planning on going for Restaurant Week 2013? Comment on this post and let us know.



News & Features

5 Things We're Reading This Week

January 08 2013 - 9:00 AM

1.  Shaved Cauliflower Salad Recipe

Happy Yolks has some beautiful writing, and this piece in particular might get you a little sentimental about 2012. This recipe seems to have the strangest combination of ingredients, yet they add up to be just perfect together. Cauliflower, radicchio, walnuts, dates…delicious.

2. The Menu at Little Goat

Yes, this is what we’re reading. It’s not just any menu; it’s the menu at one of the most anticipated restaurant openings of 2013. Stephanie Izard’s diner/bar/bakery has everything we’ve been craving, and even a few things we didn’t know we wanted. Elvis waffles, sloppy joe gone goat sandwich, lasagna and more unique pies than you’d ever imagined (smoked pork and toffee crunch sound good to you?). Ever time we look at the menu we find another thing we just have to try.

3. High Protection Winter Tea Recipe

Cold and flu season is in full swing in case you haven’t noticed. Emergen-C just isn’t going to cut it. This all natural tea might work  (and taste) a little better. It calls for ginger, honey and even fresh thyme. Non-alcoholic drinks don’t make our list often, but this is an exception.

4. Taps for Tap at Tavernita

Eater Chicago just announced that Tavernita will be kicking off a monthly series of featuring kegged cocktails for charity. Mixologists will be creating recipes for the cause, and it started this past Friday. Check out coctel iberia, made with whiskey, sherry and pimento bitters, a creation by James Beard Award Winner Dale DeGroff.

5. French Onion Soup Recipe

A quality, classic soup recipe can work wonders, especially in the glacial Chicago winter. This French onion soup recipe from The Roaming Kitchen (photo credited to the blog) looks absolutely incredible. As far as soups go, it doesn’t require many ingredients. You still know it’s going to be hearty and flavorful.

Home Cooking

Nutella Swirl Pound Cake

January 03 2013 - 8:30 AM

It’s just common sense not to mess with perfection – and this pound cake is just that. If you’ve ever purchased an Entenmann’s pound cake from the grocery store, you may have realized at some point that there is something to be desired. The whole thing is a bit one note, with a consistent texture and unsurprising flavor.

Enter the Food & Wine recipe for Nutella swirl pound cake, and we’re in a whole different ball game. The first time I made the recipe, I used half whole wheat flour, an interesting decision in retrospect. It gave the cake an unexpected nuttiness unlike a traditional pound cake. I loved this recipe so much that I had to make it again, but with traditional all-purpose flour this time. I learned my lesson: don’t mess with a recipe that is already perfect.

The Nutella adds a richness to the cake without being too overbearing. The cake itself is buttery, perfectly balanced and caramelized along the edges. There is an incredible crispiness to the top and bottom of the cake that will have you fighting for an end piece. Make sure you prepare this cake for a party because otherwise you’ll be tempted to devour the entire thing yourself. Oh, and it has two sticks of butter (don’t tell your friends).

 See the full Nutella Swirl Pound Cake recipe here >>