From Gym to Kitchen

danielle 8.pngBy Terres Gacek

Exercise enthusiast, athlete, and coach are words not typically used to describe a pastry chef. But these are all words that can be used to describe young talented Chicago pastry Chef Danielle Reusnow. Before food, cooking, and baking became her passion, she was best known as Danielle the level 10 gymnast. From age 5-20 she competed at the park district, club, college and even national levels. Being an athlete most of her life, Danielle developed into a hardworking and self motivating young women. She used these qualities to help her explore other interest and hobbies. Little did anyone know that this strong woman had not only physical talent but also a creative side.

 

 

Q: How did your interest in cooking and baking begin?

Danielle: My interest in baking began when I was in middle school, I would watch cooking and cake shows on the Food Network channel. I loved watching the cooking competitions, especially the cake ones. As a gymnast through most of my life, I am used to performing under pressure. But watching these cake completions really amazed me. After watching other people bake and cook, I wanted to learn for myself.  But I had to find time in my busy schedule with between my club gymnastics practice, my coaching job, and my schoolwork. I found a class at my local Michael’s craft store and took all three of their cake decorating courses.

 

Q: You mentioned you like watching the Food Network, was there and particular chef that inspired you?

Danielle: I love watching Alton Brown. He features a lot of baking techniques, and I have always enjoyed watching him explain the science and chemistry of baking. In school I did very well in science related subjects like math and chemistry. Baking involves a lot of chemistry and I think that’s why I enjoy baking so much.

 

Q: At what point did baking become more than a hobby?

Danielle: While I was taking classes at Michael’s, I would show people pictures of my cakes and people were very impressed with my cake projects and would ask me to make their son’s, daughter’s, or whoever’s birthday or graduation cake. At first I would only make a few cakes for people I already knew, and later those people would tell other people and word got out that I made cakes. I continued to make cakes on the side for people through high school, by the time I was a senior I was making wedding cakes.

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Q: Did you have plans to pursue the food industry after high school?

Danielle: I started college at the University of Illinois at Chicago; I received a scholarship to be on their gymnastics team, and I pursued a degree in industrial engineering. I knew I couldn’t be a gymnast my whole life, and I have always loved math. I figured a career as an engineer would provide me with a stable job and allow me to save money to open my very own bakery.

After going to UIC for two years, I realized that I didn’t need to be an engineer to make my dreams come true. So I left UIC to pursue culinary school. I did very well at Moraine Valley, and even won a scholarship after winning a dessert competition. I continue to be involved at Moraine Valley by cooking for their galas, cooking for about 300 people. I have worked in three gala events at Moraine.

 

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Q: Can you tell us about your baking career so far?

Danielle: While in culinary school, I started working at my local Jewel bakery, working as a cake decorator. It wasn’t anything special, but I was able to gain experience working in a bakery. After working at Jewel, I was offered a head cake decorator position at a start up bakery called Bella’s. I was able to showcase my skills and make fantasy pasties. Currently, I work for Mariano’s grocery store as their lead cake decorator. I have been there for almost two years now. The best part about my job is just making someone’s day special through the means of food. I love the look on people’s faces when they see their cake for the first time and knowing that they are happy with my creations.

 

Q: What is your favorite thing to cook or bake?

Danielle: My favorite thing to bake…. would have to be homemade chocolate chip cookies! I love anything with chocolate!

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Q: Do you have any cooking tips you would like to share with us?

Danielle: I am not a fan of store bought mixes or slice n bake cookies. Don’t just buy cookie mix, try making it yourself. I know people say it’s too hard to make things from scratch but it really isn’t that hard. And the taste of a homemade cookie is so much better than from a mix. With so many resources out there people can find easy homemade recipes. My advice for people is to make it yourself and try something new!

 

Q: Is it hard living an active lifestyle with a career as a baker?

Danielle: Yes, definitely! I am very passionate about keeping myself healthy and strong. In order to do that I can’t always eat everything thing I want all the time. But it’s so hard because I love food so much! I am constantly surrounded by delicious baked goods and I always want to eat cookies. What I find helpful is to keep balance in my life. I work out and eat very healthy but I don’t deprive myself of the food I want.

The hardness time I ever had was when I decided to check something off my bucket list and complete in a woman’s figure competition. I was on a strict workout schedule and diet. I was allowed one cheat meal a week and I made sure I ate whatever I wanted that day. It was so hard for me, but in the end it was a great experience and I met a lot of amazing people. I learned that I love food too much to be on a strict diet, and found a balance in my life that kept me happy.

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Q: What’s next for you in your career as a pastry chef?

Danielle: My dream has always been to own my own bakery. Right now I am doing everything I can to learn the business end of the industry so that I can have a successful business. Just because I can bake well does not mean that I can manage properly. I am brainstorming ideas right now with a potential future business partner, attending seminars, and networking with people in the hospitality industry. I am trying to gain as much knowledge and experience as possible. I may stay at Mariano’s and promote more of my cakes and pastries that I do out of my house, or I will seek jobs elsewhere and see what I can learn. This next year or so in preparation of my business will be very essential for it to be successful. I will definitely not be opening the doors till I am as ready as possible.

Visit Chef Danielle’s Facebook page

 

 

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Dim Sum at Chicago Chinatown

By Ann (Lai Cheng), Alexandra Wasiek, and Terres Gacek

Our group had a lunch at Chinatown today.

We had a great time and dim sum.

From Terres: Writing with these ladies has been a pleasure. What started out as an assignment for our writing for electronic media class, turned into much more than just words on a page. We are three unique ladies, all from different cultural backgrounds. Through our research and vising local restaurants we were able to explore food outside our own cultures, bring us together through food! The world is full of all kinds of interesting food, don’t be afraid to try something new!

From Alexandra:

Traveling to Chinatown, I often find myself eating at Joy Yee. According to Ann, that is a major ‘no-no’ if you want to experience the true Chinese culture. Ann explained to us that mostly Americans go to that restaurant and the food is specifically catered in a style to them. Going out to eat dim sum with our blogger girl power team was a blast. First and foremost, this was a completely different experience for me. I never had dim sum before. Everything we tried was super delicious. My favorite though was the sticky rice and the bbq beef ribs. Just a side note, if you are coming here to eat and want to blend in (more or less), avoid drinking water! Nothing is wrong with it, just reveals you are too American for the place. Stick to the delicious jasmine and green tea they serve complimentary. Be ready to get into hibernation mode because after the meal you will be in a food coma and will need a nap, badly! So, if you want authentic Chinese food that is delicious and will prepare you for the best 4 hour nap of your life, please come to this restaurant…PLEASE! 🙂

Minghin Cuisine

2168 S Archer Ave

Chicago, IL 60616

(312) 808-1999

Visit website

My Chef #WCW

By Alexandra Wasiek

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Ever since I came across the girlandthekitchen.com blog, I’ve been unapologetically obsessed. Mila has the talent to write in a catchy way that keeps you coming back for me. Her blog is not just a blog you skim right to the bottom to get the recipe, I always indulge in reading her story behind the recipe she is blogging about. In a sense, this brings me even closer to her when I am cooking. Mila is an incredibly hard working moving with an unstoppable determination, that’s the many reason she is my chef woman crush Wednesday (but actually every day). I had the honor to interview Mila and get inside her head. Before you read the interview please go to her blog and subscribe for the latest emails and free ebook giveaways. 

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Q: How did you start out in the food industry and how long have you been part of the food industry? 

Mila: I have been in the food industry since I was 17. I started working as a hostess in a restaurant chain when I was 17 and then moved to the server position as soon as I was 18. However, I was always entranced with cooking and food. It always had a very special place for me in my heart. I found comfort in the smells coming out of my mom’s kitchen. It is something that to this day makes me feel whole. After all these years of being influenced by food…going to culinary school seemed like a no brainer.

Q: What inspired you to begin your own food blog and how did you come up with the name?

Mila: I have been blogging for almost 8 years now. Off and on, and with different names. First I did it as a way to heal after my mother’s death. My writing flowed freely and I found it therapeutic again to cook and write about it. I blogged mostly my mother’s recipes and it seemed to bring me a great deal of closure. About 2.5 years ago, after my students from my cooking class begged to have more access to recipes…I opened up girlandthekitchen.com. The name had no specific meaning except that…I woke up one morning and it came to me. I figured if that was the tactic I used to name my child, that’s how I will name my blog.

Q: What are some obstacles you’ve faced with your blog and how did you overcome those obstacles? 

Mila: I deal with obstacles daily! A food blog or any blog is a world of its own and it is constant hurdles. Aside from the photography aspect (which I overcame by practicing and studying different lighting and angles) the hardest aspect was narrowing down my niche. I found really terrific boutique agents who were able to work with me and really narrow down my niche. Since fitness is such a huge part of my life they were surprised how minimal it plays a role on my blog…so we decided to make my blog more like who I was and not try and mimic someone else. We finally came up with the idea that I am 90% healthy (mostly vegan and vegetarian) and when I do fall off the wagon that 10% of the time…my heart strings pull me towards the food my mama cooked for me smile emoticon Limiting what I can and cannot post has been one of the hardest things I had to do…but it is a strategy that is really helping me define who I am in the sea of never-ending food blogs.

Q: What do you love most about your blog?

Mila: Hmmm this is tough…if we are talking about it as a whole..I love the comments from my readers! I LIVE for them!!! It is so comforting to know that people are actually reading my thoughts and my recipes and not just skimming through. And the other aspect I love the most…is the writing. I am a natural born writer and I find a lot of comfort in writing…so when I can share my soul with the world and people actually find the time to read it…I am beyond humbled.

Q: What’s your favorite recipe from your blog?

Mila: Oh Gee! Another really tough one! Ummm my favorite recipe is probably the first recipe I ever published back so very many years ago. It my mom’s chicken soup. It was the only thing I ever ate as a child and it is the recipe that tugs at my heart strings the most. It is also one of my favorite recipes to actually cook. http://girlandthekitchen.com/jewish-chicken-soup-with-matzo-balls-the-real-jewish-penicillin/

Q:  What advice can you give to people that are starting out with their own food blogs?

Mila: advice…I can give a few, that I wish I would have known when i first started. -Being a food blogger is HARD WORK. It is seriously the HARDEST I have ever worked! There is always a ton to do. You have to be on top of your game with EVERYTHING! Social media, programming, photography, recipes, trending SEO. And that’s just a piece of it. Be prepared to want to work very hard and assure yourself that this is exactly what you want to do.

-Get yourself a decent DSLR and practice practice practice! Photography is HUGE so make sure your pictures are on point!

– Find your niche. Figure out what separates you from the bunch.

-Be prepared for failure and rejection. It will happen a lot. Develop a tough skin.

-Listen to free podcasts like Food Blogger Pro. In fact sign up with food blogger pro! Go and look at the site foodbloggerscentral.com. My friend Nagi operates it and she had tremendous growth in a very short time. She shares all her juicy secrets smile emoticon Plus she has THE BEST food photography book EVER!

-Join Facebook groups for food bloggers so you can get help and share your recipes.

 

This Ingredient Will Change Your Life

Reporting post by: Alexandra Wasiek

blogquorn

What the beep is Quorn? That’s the first thought that came into mind when I came across this ingredient. According to Quorn.com, “Quorn products are made from Mycoprotein, a nutritionally healthy protein source that is meat free and naturally low in saturated fat and high in fiber. Quorn products have the taste, appearance and texture of meat, perfect if you want meat free meals or are thinking of creating healthier versions of your favorite everyday meals.” That’s right people, there is an awesome substitute ingredient that is actually tasty and is a perfect replacement for meat in your meals. If the healthier lifestyle appeals to you, then go to the damn grocery store and get this awesome product in your life. It’s unfortunate that people assume that there is minimal protein intake going the meatless direction, but that is not true. According to mycoprotein.com, the Mycoprotein ingredient contains “healthy, meat-free form of high quality protein and is also a good source of dietary fiber.”

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There’s an awesome post by Mila from girlandthekitchen.com on an awesome recipe that she replaces meat with Quorn. The feedback she got from her family was positive and her husband, who loves meat, enjoyed the meal she prepared. Chili is such a comforting meal and it’s exciting that Mila was able to transform this comfort meal into something super tasty and health conscious.

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I love that this recipe is as simple as putting it in the slow cooker for 6 hours and not having to think about it. Mila recommends to check it every few hours just in case the water begins to evaporate but otherwise you are golden until time is up. Here’s a clipping of this delicious recipe from girlandthekitchen.com

 

If you have any questions, please email me @ atensi2@uic.edu

 

Hidden Sugar

By Terres Gacek

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(Picture from: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/nutrition_articles.asp?id=616)

Who doesn’t love a warm hot fudge brownie or freshly baked chocolate chip cookie straight out of the oven? When I go to a restaurant with my family, the first thing my mom looks at is the dessert menu. Like many other people out there, my mom loves her chocolate and sweets. I am no better myself; I am a candy addict. I love gummies, sweet tarts or any kind of fruit candy. My mom and I are just two examples out of many others who love sugar. The problem is not eating too much cake or ice cream or candy, but rather the problem is in foods we think are healthy.

The American Heart Association recommends a daily amount of 6 teaspoons of sugar for women and 9 teaspoons for men, but Americans exceed the recommended daily amount of sugar by about 20 teaspoons. In Dana Angelo White’s article, “Are You Eating Too Much Sugar”, she reveals some of those hidden sugary foods you might want to think twice about next time you go to the store.

The first thing she discusses in her article is the difference between natural sugars and added sugars. Natural sugars are found in fruit, and added sugars are generally artificial sweeteners found low nutrients food such as soda, fruit snacks, chips, and cereal. This can be very confusing to consumers, especially when the package reads “natural artificial sweetener”. There is a lot of misguided labeling on foods. When looking at a food’s ingredients, look at the grams of sugar and the daily value percentage. These are to help show the consumer how much nutritional value is in one serving of that food.

The first food White mentions is granola bars. A granola bar is a great alternative to a chocolate bar and can be eaten as a healthy snack. Granola can be made of a mixture of nuts, oats, seeds, dried fruit, and sometimes little pieces of chocolate. The mixture of nuts, oats, and seeds provide a good source of energy and good fats. A granola bar can be a good mid day snack. But be careful because not all Granolas are created equal. Some brands add chocolate, or a fruity coating. This addition increases the amount of sugar in the granola bar, sometimes decreasing the nutritional value.

Cereal is another food with too much sugar content. Most cereals contain way too much sugar and don’t provide much nutritional value. For Example, Fruit Loops has 12 grams of sugar per one cup serving, according to nutrition resource. Some examples of very sugary cereals are: Lucky Charms, Fruit Loops, and Captain Crunch to name a few. Examples of cereal with more nutritional values are Cheerios, Chex’s, or cereals that are made from rice or flax seed.

Yogurt is a very popular food item that I think most people get confused about. Most people don’t’ normally think about yogurt as unhealthy. White mentions Greek yogurt as having lower sugar content. Greek yogurt is a much healthier option, compared to other kinds of yogurt. Authority Nutrition states nonfat Greek yogurt has about 3.2 grams of sugar while low fat plain yogurt has 7 grams of sugar, and nonfat fruit yogurt has about 19 gram of sugar. Be wary of flavored yogurt because this usually has more sugar because of the additive sugars.

Juice is also something most people don’t initially think of as unhealthy. Recently people have started to understand the dangerous of juice. About 12 oz of off the shelf apply juice has about 39 grams of sugar. Most juices are made with mostly sugar and artificial sweeteners. Some people claim that juice can be as unhealthy as pop.  White suggests that when purchasing juice always makes sure to look for “made with 100% fruit juice” on the label.

The last food on White’s list is salad dressing. When you are trying to eat healthier or lose weight, a common go to healthy meal is a salad. How could a salad ever be unhealthy? Well, there are many things such as cheese, crotons, and bacon that can quickly turn a salad from good to bad. By adding too much or the wrong kind of salad dressing can also decrease the nutritional value of your salad. Try making your own honey dressing or a sweet taste or oil and vinegar for more of a savory flavor.

Link to Dana Angelo White’s article http://www.foodnetwork.com/features/apple-news/a/are-you-eating-too-much-sugar.html

 

Other Sources

http://www.nutritionresource.com/nutrition-facts/label/cereals-ready-to-eat-kellogg-kelloggs-froot-loops

https://authoritynutrition.com/foods/yogurt/

http://www.hookedonjuice.com/

 

 

Top 3 Vegetarian Blogs and a BONUS

By: Alexandra Wasiek

Lately I’ve been focused on clean eating and where the food that I’m purchasing is coming from. I’m not vegetarian but I have curiosity in this topic and am open to more information on this lifestyle choice. When discussed in other classes, when asked why they choose to eat meat versus vegetarian dishes, the answer is most likely convenience. In other words, cynical realism is among our peers in society. The purpose of this blog is to shine the light on vegetarian healthy options

1.Girl and the Kitchen: This blog has a fair mix of vegetarian, vegan and meat infused foods. My connection to this blog is that Mila (Girl and the Kitchen blogger), is slowly transitioning to a vegetarian lifestyle. I really enjoy reading her delicious discoveries and the kind of results she gets. Also, Mila lives in Illinois and I contact her via facebook frequently for recipe questions. If you follow her on social media, you can be alerted when she is hosting amazing cooking classes. 12959539_10207418654578252_1133941450_o.jpg2.Amuse Your Bouche: This blog consists of all vegetarian friendly recipes. This blog has been up for sometime now and Becca, who’s a cheese loving vegetarian is often posting new recipes that are user friendly onto her blog. She offers a wide range of recipes and her blog is easy to navigate. I don’t know her personally, I started following her after she posted on one of Mila’s (from girl and the kitchen) blog posts. blog

3.Green Kitchen Stories: I really enjoy the layout of the blog and I appreciate how they choose to experiment with different healthy foods. This blog has a nice recipe index that’s in alphabetical order so you can look up an ingredient that comes to mind.thirdblog

Bonus: 2 trending vegetarian/vegan inspired books to own.

  1. Eating Animals– This is an eye opening book on what goes on in factory farms versus family farms. Foer spreads awareness on having the knowledge of where your food comes from whether you choose to be vegetarian or not.

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2. Skinny Bitch– Actually, when I first bought this book, I bought it just because I knew it  was a solution to get into shape. This was my first encounter to a possible vegan lifestyle.  Don’t be deceived by the cover, this is a very educational and eye opening book. Great for  both women and men to read.

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Reporting Post

By Ann (Lai Cheng) / Category: Essays and pictures

This article of “No food is healthy. Not even kale” is found at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/no-food-is-healthy-not-even-kale/2016/01/15/4a5c2d24-ba52-11e5-829c-26ffb874a18d_story.html from The Washington Post by Michael Ruhlman on January 17, 2016.  The author talks about kale, eggs, cheese, packaged foods (natural), protein shakes, pork, and etc. In this article, Ruhlman discusses that nobody has questions about eating eggs in the 1970s. However, now a day, people are concerned about eating eggs because it has high cholesterol and it’s a heart attack risk food.

Ruhlman discusses that kale is not good eating with a big Mac.  People need to think about what they eat and combine with other food to be seen as a good and healthy food or a bad food. It is not just eating healthy, and it is what people need to figure out what they eat.

The author also states that some food should change their labels, such as Kraft cheese should not be called cheese, it can be labeled as “cheese food” or a “cheese product.”  Some packaged foods should not be labeled “natural” or “all natural” because the products are not natural, which includes some not natural processing. I was wondering why Ruhlman recommends people take “protein snack” during the day, which is made from the pig skin.

The author says that if people eat nutritious food, people will be healthy based on what combination of foods to eat. I like that the author put the green salad on the beginning of the article. It makes me want to eat green and healthy food. However, I do not agree with this article that “no food is healthy. No even kale.” I found that the other article showed that there are a lot of good foods.

According to another website http://www.rd.com/health/healthy-eating/best-antioxidant-rich-foods/ there are many of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, and we should eat them.  Based on the researchers at the Human Nutrition Research Center, they provide different kind of vegetables for antioxidant power. I selected some of my favorite foods to post on our semester foodies blog.

Kale

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http://www.rd.com/health/healthy-eating/best-antioxidant-rich-foods/ “Rich in cancer-fighting antioxidants and vitamins, kale is also a good source of beta-carotene and is the top combo of both lutein and zeaxanthin.” I agree that kale is a good food including the antioxidants and vitamins that fight cancer.

Spinach

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http://www.rd.com/health/healthy-eating/best-antioxidant-rich-foods/ “Spinach is packed with carotenoids—antioxidants that promote healthy eyes and help prevent macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in older people.” I like to eat spinach in salad and cooked because it has good antioxidants.

Brussels sprouts

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http://www.rd.com/health/healthy-eating/best-antioxidant-rich-foods/ “These broccoli cousins have plenty of bitter sulforaphane as well as compounds called isothiocyanates, which detoxify cancer-causing substances in the body before they can do their dirty work. In one Dutch study, guys who ate Brussels sprouts daily for three weeks had 28 percent less genetic damage (gene damage is a root cause of cancer) than those who didn’t eat sprouts.” I am not familiar with Brussel sprouts; however, I tried one time last month and willing to try it again.

Alfalfa Sprouts

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http://www.rd.com/health/healthy-eating/best-antioxidant-rich-foods/ “This tiny powerhouse is rich in beta-carotene, an antioxidant that protects against lung cancer and helps maintain healthy skin, hair, nails, gums, glands, bones, and teeth. It’s also a good source of vitamin E, which may help prevent heart attacks, stokes, and lower the risk of death from bladder cancer.” I have never tried alfalfa sprouts.

Broccoli Flowers

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http://www.rd.com/health/healthy-eating/best-antioxidant-rich-foods/ “Broccoli is full of cancer-fighting antioxidants. One study found men who ate 5 servings or more per week of cruciferous veggies like broccoli were half as likely to develop bladder cancers over a 10-year period as men who rarely ate them.” I often eat broccoli flowers with shrimp and fish.

Beets

Beets

http://www.rd.com/health/healthy-eating/best-antioxidant-rich-foods/ “Beets are packed with healthy nutrients, like five essential vitamins, calcium, iron, potassium, and protein.” I have never seen beets in the supermarkets. Maybe I did not pay attention.