Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Product Mentions on WGN

Below are all the products I mentioned on yesterday's WGN Around The Town segment on Real Food Rehab. To those of you who were able to watch, thank you! It was a great experience and I hope I got my message across - eat the foods you love, just make sure they're of the highest quality possible. Everything on this list below is a sure thing!

Dirty Dozen

Click HERE for the link to the Environmental Working Group's Shoppers Guide to Pesticides - The Dirty Dozen lists the produce highest in pesticide residue that are best bought organic. The Clean Fifteen are least impacted by chemical residue and the ones you can safely buy conventional. You can also download an iPhone application of the list on this site.

Chemical Free Alternatives To Your Favorite Foods

Nice Cream - seasonal ice cream using local and organic ingredients made right here in Chicago. Available at Provenance Food & Wine.
Jake's Country Meats - Jake's is a sixth generation sustainable pork farm in nearby Cassopolis, Michigan. They sell their gorgeous bacon and other pork products at the Logan Square Farmers' Market on Sunday from 10 am to 3 pm and on Thursdays at the Western Springs Farmers' Market from 2 to 7 pm. To find more locations email them at jakescountrymeats(at)gmail(dotcom)
HomeMade Pizza Company - Made-to-order pizzas you bake at home, made with super fresh ingredients.
Koeze Peanut Butter - award-winning, all natural peanut butter from Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Taco Night! I used fresh corn and flour tortillas made by Atontolico in Chicago and purchased at Danny's Fresh Market, a Mexican specialty market at 2140 N. Western in Bucktown. Other great Mexican chain markets are Cermak Produce and Carniceria Jimenez.
For the freshest, pre-mixed taco seasoning I went to The Spice House in Old Town. They also have an Evanston location.
The organic Monterey Jack cheese was from Kalona Organics - a co-op of small family farms in Iowa. It's available at Whole Foods and also at Stanley's Fruits & Vegetables at the corner of North & Elston in Chicago.

The Farmer's Market Comes To You

In this segment I talked about Irv and Shelly's Fresh Picks, a service similar to Peapod but delivers local, organic, and sustainable produce, meats and prepared foods right to your door. An amazing service, you must check it out.

Take Your Snacks Higher

Fresh, bold, delicious and chemical-free snacks are a godsend when you have no desire to cook. Keep some of these around and you'll be very happy.
Terra Chips - salty chips made from exotic root vegetables and available at Whole Foods.
Newman's Own Pretzels - corn syrup in your pretzels is unnecessary and unacceptable. I think Newman's Own makes the tastiest. Also available at Whole Foods.
Tzatziki - a Greek cucumber and yogurt dip. Mine is made with Fage Greek yogurt, lemon and garlic. Click HERE for my super easy recipe. Great for dipping and also aside meats and chicken.
Fig Recipe - Click Here for my fig suggestions.
Roasted, Salted Fava Beans and homemade Spicy Hummus both from Middle East Bakery in Andersonville. Those favas have a crunch similar to Corn Nuts and are great with cocktails.
Mt. Sterling Raw Milk Sharp Goat Cheddar - this was one of the cheeses I featured and it's one of my faves. It's from Wisconsin, produced in small batches by hand and available at Whole Foods.

The following are all available at Provenance Food & Wine, a great specialty shop with Logan Square and Lincoln Square locations. They specialize in wine, craft beers, local cheeses and also feature lots of locally produced artisanal foods.

Prairie Fruits Farm Chevre from Champaign, IL.
Brunkow Spreadable Raw Milk Cheddar with Horseradish from Darlington, Wisconsin.
Carr Valley Marisa Sheep Cheese from La Valle, Wisconsin.
Rick's Picks Artisanal Pickled Vegetables - try their Mean Beans!
McClure's Pickles - spicy, crisp and I think the best pickles I've ever had. They're based in both Detroit and Brooklyn.
Nicole's Crackers - a Chicago-based cracker-making legend. My fave crackers hands down. She also makes a great gluten-free cracker. These are also sold at Whole Foods.
Rogue Chocolatier - a relatively new, bean to bar chocolatier from Minneapolis. Very sophisticated, refined and thoughtful chocolate. They should be incredibly proud of their sexy labels.
Eat Green Foods Granola Bars - These bars are made by former cooks at Chicago's Blackbird restaurant. They're truly passionate about local, organic and sustainable foods and their bars are killer.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Real Food Rehab on the WGN Morning News

Tomorrow, Tuesday the 29th, I'll be on the WGN Morning News with Ana Belaval in her Around The Town segment. I'll be doing a Pantry Makeover LIVE on camera from 7 am. to 9 am. The longest segments will run at approximately 7:45 and 8:45. I hope you can tune in.

The woman who's getting the pantry makeover, Stacy, turned out to be the greatest subject one could ever hope for. Both she and her husband were in a place where they longed to eat healthier and get out of their food ruts. They already eat pretty well and devote some time to shopping and cooking but like many people, they eat the same things over and over, rely a little too much on processed foods and lack information on where to get the best local, healthy and chemical free foods Chicago has to offer.

Today I'm working with Stacy to prep the kitchen, the food and the pantry so they look gorgeous, plentiful and TV ready. And, full disclosure, I've also been polishing my message; getting clear on how to best convey the Real Food Rehab philosophy of quality, pleasure and satisfaction. It's live TV, so anything can happen and I'm not going to over-prepare because after all, I live this everyday. It's all in me and I want to be as fresh and in the moment as I possibly can.

It will be interesting to see what happens.

I'll also be posting the resources and information for the products I featured later in the day tomorrow so that they're available to everyone.

Thanks as always for your love and support,

Dana Joy

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Homemade Creamed Corn: The Jewbilly Strikes Again

Yes, I am a Jewbilly. A proud and noble Jewbilly. My grandfather was a Russian Jew from Kiev, my grandmother a Southerner from Cowan; a tiny town in the hills of South Central Tennessee. I spent many childhood summers there, riding horses and enjoying long, hot, slow southern days. My grandmother's sister, my Aunt Punk, was a great southern cook and one of my favorite human beings of all time. She introduced me to persimmons and paw paws and she made the best fried chicken, biscuits and gravy, slaw and creamed corn I'll probably ever encounter. I was too young to think to ask her for her recipes which were probably never written down, but instead stored in her muscle memory as she made her signature dishes over and over for most of her life as many great, home cooks do. In hindsight, I only wish I'd paid more attention.

Food for thought: It occurs to me that the tradition of passing down recipes from one generation to the next has been lost in our culture because we've become more reliant on processed foods and cook less. I think that's something we desperately need to bring back.

As a little girl, I was addicted to her creamed corn. She'd make huge batches in the summer and freeze it so she always had surplus. I've always wanted to try to re-create it.

As fate would have it, I recently discovered The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook and I have to say, it's my new favorite. It's engagingly written, and contains both classic and updated southern recipes emphasizing fresh ingredients that are very easy and incredibly satisfying. The Lee Brothers also have a catalog business selling southern specialties such as boiled peanuts, hominy and chow chows. So, if you're a Southerner living in Alaska or abroad, and you're homesick for your favorite foods, it might be a great resource for you.

If you've only ever had creamed corn out of a can you're in for a surprise. How can you go wrong with fresh sweet corn, butter, cream, salt and pepper? After I made it, I realized it wasn't my Aunt Punk's recipe (I'm pretty sure she used lard and flour in hers) but it's a damn fine substitute.

I think it'd be great layered over a big bowl of mashed potatoes (starch on starch!), or if you're a Veg, instead of soup and salad try a warm bowl of creamed corn paired with a beautiful vinegary salad. Or serve it aside grilled pork chops or fried chicken.

In classic Jewbilly style, I'll be having mine with a side of brisket. Très treyf.

Creamed Corn
From The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook: Stories and Recipes for Southerners and Would-be Southerners
enough for 6
Time: 15 minutes


8 ears of fresh corn
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons half & half, whole milk, skim milk, or heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (I used 2 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or white pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon sugar (I would only use sugar if your corn isn't sweet - use it sparingly, to taste)


Cut the corn from the cob and scrape the cobs with the edge of a spoon to extract as much of the juice and material as possible. You should have about 5 1/4 cups of corn.

In a skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat until it's frothy. Add the corn and stir constantly for 1 minute.

Pour in the half and half and add the salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low to a bubbly simmer and stir vigilantly until the liquid has thickened to a dense, yellowish sauce, about 12 minutes.

Turn off the heat and let steam for 2 minutes. Serve immediately, making sure to pool some of the sauce around each serving.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

To All The Bowls I've Loved Before

To all the bowls I once caressed
And may I say they've held the best
Local concord grapes in a bunch
They've even served my lunch
To all the bowls I've loved before...

I collect studio pottery but I have a thing in particular for bowls. I love having bowls in all shapes and sizes because I'm a snacker, a grazer, and a nosher extraordinaire. And when friends come over, I'm known for giving great nosh. I also care that my serving bowls are stunners - that they're art; each one of a kind.

But this bowl - it will remain empty upon my counter so I may gaze upon it's beauty. I will bow my head and pray before it. I will weep in gratitude of it's many hand-made blessings. (Now read that back again imagining Yul Brynner's voice from The Ten Commandments)

I found this bowl at the wonderful Ravenswood Antique Market in Chicago, where the owner and curator John, has impeccable taste and where I just happened to have a store credit! John had just brought it into the store within the hour when it caught my eye and I scooped it up without hesitation. It's a studio piece from Greece made during the mid-sixties.

Ravenswood carries exquisite vintage jewelry, furniture, art, objects, kitchen and barware and they're open seven days a week. It's a one-of-a-kind shopping destination, so check it out.

Friday, September 18, 2009

(Last Call) Roasted Tomato Pasta

It's almost that time. And I must confess it makes me a little sad.

The growing season's almost over and we'll only have local tomatoes for a little while longer. I've been growing some with my neighbors in our yard and another variety on my deck and they're just now ripening! The season got a late start because of the wet spring and relatively cold summer. But, I've finally got some beauties; sweet, ripe and ready to go.

This pasta's as gorgeous and tasty as it is quick and easy. So, serve it to your loved ones on a busy weeknight or to dinner guests on a leisurely Saturday night.

I used homegrown tomatoes that were medium-sized and sliced them in half but it'll be easier if you just use small, sweet cherry or teardrop tomatoes. If you go to the farmers' market you can mix and match varieties in different shapes and colors. I also used green and purple basil from my deck, so if you have basil plants, this is the perfect opportunity to use them up!

(Last Call) Roasted Tomato Pasta

Adapted from Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries


1 pound dried pasta - I used spaghetti but short pasta like Orecchiette would be great, too.
3 lbs. local cherry tomatoes
4 cloves garlic peeled and sliced thin
30 basil leaves
3 oz. fresh Chevre
4 tbsp. organic heavy whipping cream and grated Pecorino to taste
olive oil
salt & pepper


First Thing: Set your broiler on high

Boil pasta in a large pot of salted water.

Rinse and dry tomatoes well. In a roasting pan or baking dish, toss tomatoes and garlic together in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Throw the pan under the broiler, very close to the flame. You want to broil them until the skins split and get nice and charred in some places and the tomatoes give of their juices. This should take about 5 minutes depending on the heat of your oven but check after 3 minutes and don't let them burn. Remove from the oven and crush the tomatoes in the pan with the back of a fork.
Pull the pasta al dente and drain. Toss the crushed tomatoes with the basil into a serving bowl and let the basil wilt from the steam and heat. Season with salt and pepper and either throw in the goat cheese or the cream depending on your preference. If using cream, add some grated Pecorino cheese as well. Fold pasta into the mix and toss together gently with tongs and serve.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Best of Simple

I believe in beauty. I believe in surrounding yourself with beauty every day.

I'm talking about the most subtle and quiet moments in our day-to-day lives; when you're sitting at home and your eyes land on something that makes you infinitely happy. Like a piece of art. Ripe plums in the most gorgeous shade of purple sitting in your favorite bowl. A thoughtful tableau of pottery. A wabi sabi vase of flowers.

These moments matter! And they have a cumulative effect. And just as I believe with all my heart that beautiful food is your birthright, I also believe a beautiful home is your birthright. A serviceable home is not enough. Living in surroundings that reflect our tastes and passions literally heightens our experience of being alive. We need this now more than ever.

The housewares I live with day to day are simple, quality pieces that have emotional meaning for me. My brown dishes, handmade by Arabia of Finland, and many of my serving pieces are relics from my childhood. They were a part of my everyday life growing up and I was fortunate to have them passed on to me in mint condition. I use these pieces every day, there's no special occasion-ware in my home. I love opening my dish cabinet and looking at this lovely array of workmanship, textures, colors and symmetry.

I'm reading this great book called The Soul of Money and the author, Lynne Twist, talks a lot about the myth of scarcity in our culture – you know how sometimes we can think that no matter how much we have, it’s never enough? This has a definite effect on how and what we consume. Here’s a quote:

"Ironically, the condition of scarcity breeds accumulation to excess, which only diminishes the value of what we have too much of. We become burdened by our excess; it clutters our thinking and our lives. We become attached to our possessions and, in a way, start to think that what we have is who we are, and it becomes harder and harder to share anything because as it diminishes in value from the flood of excess, we feel less valuable ourselves and must acquire more."

I don’t remember who it was that originally said, “We can never get enough of what we don’t really need,” but damn, is that ever true.

You don't need to be too terribly ambitious to create your own kitchen
; to make it a feel good place you really want to spend time in. Here are some simple ways to get started.

Make it yours! Use your buying power to express your true self. Whether it’s ten dollars or ten thousand dollars, every time you spend your money you have an opportunity to express who you are and what you value. Make an authentic statement by choosing kitchenware and decor that truly moves you and makes your meals more meaningful. Bring things into the kitchen that have meaning for you: A spiritual totem over the stove, a Madonna poster en Francais circa 1982. Make cooking and eating a personal, aesthetic experience even if you're cooking for one. It’s your home, let your style shine through! If that means skull and crossbones plates and Union Jack napkins – more power to you.

Small touches make a difference. While I believe in beautiful things, I don’t believe they have to cost a lot. I also don’t believe in excess for excess’ sake. Having a vase with flowers in my kitchen or a twelve dollar orchid from Home Depot on my ledge does wonders for my morale and makes being in my kitchen that much more pleasant.

Make your kitchen a clutter-free zone.
Your kitchen counter is not the weigh station for crap on its way to the garbage. Don’t let stuff pile up. Keep your counters clean and clear so when you’re inspired to cook or throw together a healthy meal, you can.

Get out of your head and into your body.
We spend way too much time as a culture thinking instead of feeling. Experiencing food and eating – even decorating – are best left to the senses. I’m convinced when we over think; we lose touch with what it is we truly want. Start approaching things with your senses and not your head. What colors soothe or invigorate you? What textures are you drawn to? What do you feel like eating versus what you think you should eat?

Fill your fridge and pantry with real, beautiful food.
This will keep you feeling good - physically, mentally and emotionally - and coming back for more. Mine this blog and others like it for great ideas on how to eat simply and beautifully.

Quality trumps quantity any day. Be selective. Keep it simple. Be true to yourself, your taste and your means.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

An Improvisational Salad Journey

Salad culture in this country has changed so much since I was a young. Back then iceberg wedges and Julienne Salads reigned the day. I rarely see them anymore except at a steakhouse, diner or deli which I enjoy but rarely frequent.

Now, it seems to me almost every casual American restaurant dishes out slightly altered versions of the same two or three salads - and they've just been done to death. You know the ones I'm talking about. And more often than not they're mediocre and mediocre isn't satisfying.

Perhaps we're in a salad rut and maybe it's time to re-think what salad could be. This is potentially promising for people who think they don't like salad.

And when I speak of an improvisational journey I'm not talking about glow sticks and Ecstasy and a long, slow death by musical masturbation - no - this is a journey that begins by letting go of our tired, old salad dogma such as, " a salad has got to have lettuce" or "when I see a sneeze guard, that's the time for a salad."

This journey is about you in your kitchen without the safety net of a formal recipe, throwing together ingredients you might not ordinarily consider using or combining and seasoning them to your taste. The sky's the limit.

Perhaps it might also be a creative and refreshing exercise to take a break from bottled salad dressings and whip up your own with great oils, vinegars, mustards and citrus. It's easy, fast and makes a HUGE difference in taste.

In my experience, the best tasting and most beautiful salads are made from the best ingredients. It's that simple. So before you go to the grocery store to buy the same old goober-y bag of mesclun lettuce and three month old carrots, let me stop you right here. I'm going to keep saying this over and over so just amuse me: Right now, farmers' markets and road-side farm stands all over this fine country of ours are brimming with the most amazing, colorful, succulent produce you will ever sink your teeth into. And especially if you live in the Midwest where the growing season is only six months long - now is the time, people. Now is the time.

Below I've provided a list of salads that move me; perhaps it might inspire you to create your own. Make these to taste, adjusting quantities and seasonings as you go. It goes without saying you use great vinegars and extra virgin olive oil. To slice vegetables quickly and super thin, look into buying one of these.

Arugula, Radicchio, Feta & Dates tossed in lemon juice, olive oil

Arugula, Avocado, Grapefruit, Red Onion, champagne vinegar, olive oil

Chopped Celery, Blue Cheese & Tabasco, olive oil, a touch of lemon juice*

Watercress, Pear & Fennel, lime juice, olive oil, toasted hazelnuts**

Celery, Dates, Toasted Walnuts, shaved Pecorino, sherry vinegar, olive oil

Shredded Carrots, Harissa, touch of cayenne, chopped cilantro, raisins, olive oil, lemon juice*

Cantaloupe, Prosciutto, Buffalo Mozzarella, Parsley, Arugula, olive oil, lemon juice**

Tomatoes, Cucumber, Parsley, Kalamatas, Radish, Red Onion, Lemon Tahini dressing (see below)

Celery, Carrots, Cucumber, Radishes, Parsley, Basil, Red Onion, Radicchio, Boiled Egg, Homemade Croutons, garlicky red wine vinaigrette

Radish, Apple, Fennel, dressing of apple cider vinegar, whole grain mustard, touch of honey, olive or walnut oil

New Potatoes, Parsley, Capers, Chopped Garlic, tossed warm with red wine vinegar, olive oil*

Cucumber, Daikon Radish, Red Radish, Scallion, Celery, Avocado, Toasted Sesame Seeds, dressing of sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar and a touch of honey, topped with sprouts and a side of brown rice

Arugula, Bacon or Prosciutto, Peaches, Ricotta, Mint, dressing of fresh peach juice, sherry vinegar, olive oil, pinch cayenne

Pristine Greens of any kind be they arugula, watercress or the tender leaves of a young Bibb - simply tossed with a classic vinaigrette and maybe some shaved Parmesan is perfection.

Dressing a Salad

To make a simple dressing, the typical ratio is 3 tablespoons oil to 1 tablespoon vinegar or citrus such as lemon juice and then season with salt and pepper. Feel free to riff on this to your taste. You can also try adding a half teaspoon finely chopped garlic or shallot and a small amount of dijon and fresh herbs as well.

The pros mix the dressing right in the bowl, whisk it until it thickens, then toss the ingredients gently on top with their hands. If you want, make double or triple batches in a non-reactive jar or container and save in the fridge - simply whisk it well before you use it.

Here's the Lemon Tahini Dressing recipe as promised. This is from the great food blog 101 Cookbooks. Simply blend in a food processor.

1 garlic clove, smashed and chopped
1/4 cup tahini - a sesame seed paste found at Whole Foods, and middle east grocers
Zest of one lemon
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons hot water
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

* recipe adapted from the awesome Melissa Clark
** recipe adapted fromThe Kitchen Diaries: A Year in the Kitchen with Nigel Slater