How ’bout a lard sundae for dessert?

By: Nicole Kucharski

Ever get frustrated with food advertisements not living up to your expectations? Burger commercials from fast food leaders such as McDonalds and Burger King present their products as delectable perfections. Already picturing the zesty crunch of green lettuce and juicy taste of rich red tomatoes piled on top of two prime beef patties? I’m right there with you…But how come these images are never true representations of what is just a sloppily smashed together wanna-be?

First and foremost: The advertised Big Mac could never realistically fit into the actual box it is sold in.

Second: Your burger doesn’t have it’s own stylist. No, I’m not kidding. The burger wonders you see taunting you on TV go through long and tedious styling and computer editing processes.

Third: Unlike the burgers featured in ads, the burger you are eating is actual meat (well, sorta). Cooked food glops, slops, and smears, so it’s no wonder that the actual product leaves more to be desired.

Looking beyond food advertisements, let’s take a quick trip to the grocery store. Now, think about those shiny red apples that are gleaming in the fresh food isle. That waxy shine that covers these fruits isn’t thanks to mother nature but to a product called Shellac. Shellac, a product whose primary use is to act as a shiny coating on wood, nails etc., is FDA approved when dissolved in pure ethanol.  Now since this kind of advertising works at the local level, it’s usually so obscure that most consumers would never stop and think that the veggies grown by hard-working farmers could be manufactured for the sole purpose of appearing more appetizing.

Let’s take a moment of silence to let this information sink in. If the food you buy at the local grocer’s can be manipulated behind closed doors, don’t be surprised if the advertisement of your favorite ice cream sunday isn’t just a pile of modeling clay and lard or the fresh flowing milk featured on your box of cereal isn’t, in fact, glue.

Posted in food and truth | 2 Comments

The Microwait

By: Nicole Kucharski

I am so hungry that I’m eating my own thoughts. Compliments to Airton Nascimento.

Corporate problems: It’s lunchtime and you brought your favorite lean cuisine entree only to discover that the line for the microwave is never ending. Second equally peeving scenario: You’re at work and as soon as the clock strikes noon, a line of starving animals forms behind the only available microwave in the department, let alone floor. Why do institutions such as businesses and schools provide you with one, or at best, two microwaves when the ratio of possible utilities to hungry people is completely out of whack? Is it because they want you to secretly get frustrated while waiting in line, only to finally decide that you have to buy some crappy snack in the cafeteria with five minutes to spare on actual consumption?  Could fast food industries be possibly winning here as well, providing a quicker alternative to the drooling microwait? Or could it just be that the upper management has more pressing matters than a microwait epidemic developing on the 3rd floor?  Ever wonder how many minutes of the already brief lunch break you waste waiting in line to heat up your food? That’s roughly 3 full days a year you will never get back*. Ever wonder how many brain cells you loose staring into the microwave while the hungry guy behind you is breathing down your neck, frustrated that you are re-heating your food for the third time? What about the forehead wrinkles you acquire while you’re watching the guy in front of you — who clearly doesn’t know how to follow simply written cooking instructions — press 10 seconds five consecutive times because his food is still cold. That’s probably a lot of brain cells lost and a lot of forehead wrinkles acquired. What about the lingering smells from that spicy Indian dish that come gratis with your Italian pasta? This, my friends, we would call a collision of taste buds.

Is this argument a little far-fetched? Perhaps. Is is a call for action? That depends on how deeply my argument resonates in you. Does it make you think twice about waiting in that micro-line? Probably. So folks, is my mission accomplished? Definitely.

*If you waste just 15 minutes of the average hr-long lunch break, 5 days a week, and for 12 months straight, that would equal to about 3,600 minutes (or simply put a little of over 3 days).

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Cold Winter. Red Hots.

By: Nicole Kucharski

The perfect combination.

What makes Chicago unique? Aside from the magnificent architecture, arts & entertainment, pulsating nightlife and rich history, there is one other thing us Chicagoans love about our city: food. From Mexican to Italian, Chicago has it all. With so much to choose from, there is always one food item that brings me close to home – the Chicago-style hot dog. So you ask: What makes the Chicago hot dog any more special then the rest? Most would say it’s Chicago dog’s unique preparation, style and presentation.

The Chicago-style hot dog is said to have originated in the kitchens of Fluky’s, a popular hot-dog chain that opened in 1929. Although the numbers of Fluky’s have dwindled to just one (the place was renamed U Lucky Dawg until recently closing its doors), the numbers of other hot dog joints have grown. In fact, they have grown in numbers so much, that they supersede other popular fast food joints in the area, such as, McDonald’s.

It’s a Chicago thing.

So what does the Chicago-style hot dog look like? Well it starts with the bun…steamed and topped with poppy seeds. The hot dog is traditionally served kosher (that means no pork), and topped with yellow mustard, relish, white onions, tomato wedges, pickled sport peppers, a pickle spear, and finally, sprinkled with some celery salt.

Why no ketchup? True hot dog lovers will tell you different reasons as to why one of the most popular condiments just doesn’t work. One of the most prominent reasons for ketchup hate, is that the sauce is believed to overpower the already balanced taste of the Chicago-style dog. To put it simply, no ketchup is needed because the combination is already that perfect.

Moving on to other pressing topics…How does the relish get it’s unique neon glow? It’s all about the food coloring. While many are unsure of the exact combination of colors (the recipe is top-secret), it is important to know why the choice of neon green instead of any other green. First, some say that the neon relish tastes a bit sweeter then others, complementing the hot dog just right. Second, it stems from a long tradition, which as many believe, was started by Fluky’s.

Now that you know a little bit about one of Chicago’s most prized possessions check out some of these delicious and noteworthy hot dog joints:

Morrie O’Malley’s (3501 S Union Ave, Chicago): A popular stop for White Sox fans that has the Chicago-Style hot dog recipe down to a T.

Wieners Circle (2622 N Clark St, Chicago) : There are mixed reviews on this joint, but if you enjoy the classic taste of the Chicago dog, you can’t go wrong here.

Chubby Wieners (4652 N Western Ave, Chicago): Simply said, this place serves a a well-prepared Chicago-styled hot dog that’ll sure get your taste buds going.

*Remember that since these places are small-run businesses, or as I like to call them, “joints,” be prepared to come with ca$h and an open mind. Small and cramped places are common in the city but don’t let that discourage you. We promise, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.*

Posted in food on the go, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cheap Eat$ meet Groupon

Cheap Eat$ Peeps, it’s time to fill you in on one of the greatest websites, if you haven’t heard about it already, Groupon.com. Groupon works thanks to the power of collective buying. Basically, a business agrees to give consumers a special discount so long as a minimum number of people purchase the deal. Throughout my experience thus far, I have yet to receive a returned discount due to the company’s inability to reach their sale point. Daily deals are provided to users world-wide and consist of anything from restaurant bargains and teeth whitening to yoga beach sessions and sushi making classes.

Groupon originally started out by providing one deal a day to less than 20 cities and has, since then, grown immensely. With Groupon’s ever growing popularity, I just couldn’t resist spreading the word. Cheap eat$ peeps I’m telling you: You will save a TON of money and get to discover a LOT of places you’ve never heard of, been, and possibly couldn’t afford otherwise. Thanks to Groupon, I’ve been able to discover 24 new restaurants with my friends (the list is always growing!). Also, being a college student in Chicago, one of the most diverse cities out there, a lot of hidden restaurants, shows and classes can go unnoticed. Groupon helps with that.

Besides, what is there to hate about saving? A typical deal given by Groupon normally consists of: You paying $ while getting something that is valued at $$. Some of the deals I have used in the past for example are:

$20 for $50 at Kamehachi Japanese Restaurant; $25 for $50 Worth of Italian Cuisine and Drinks at Gioco; $25 for $50 Worth of Latin Fusion Cuisine and Drinks at Coobah; $15 for $30 Worth of Burger Customization at The Counter.

A fellow foodie friend has accompanied me to all of these places and here’s what he had to say about Groupon: “All of the places we have been to have really been great quality, and up to par with the reviews they are given. Of course not everyone will like every place or every deal, but if you are open to trying out new places, or want something besides the usual close to home spots, I’d definitely recommend Groupon. It’s saved me a lot of money, and I don’t have to be a cheap date.” Julie, a friend and avid user of Groupon says, “Groupon is great, because it allows you to get more for less. You can use it for many different reasons. To save money on a nice meal, or to be able to get the glass of wine you wouldn’t normally get to save money in a tight economy. It’s also great if I want to take a co-worker out to dinner, and I can afford to pay for his/her meal.”

Groupon helps everyone. It helps business and restaurant owners stimulate sales growth and benefits consumers by providing a well-rounded deal. Last year, I bought a Chicago chocolate tour for my mother in light of Mother’s Day and we had an amazing time. In fact, I had never even heard of a chocolate tour until I saw it on Groupon. Turns out, there are pizza tours, brewery tours, hamburger tours… you name it!

In light of the holiday season Groupon has created Grouponicus offering deals that last for numerous days. Right now the deals on dining include:

$20 for $40 Worth of Pan-European Fare and Drinks at LOKaL

$10 for $20 Worth of Dutch Pancakes and More from Pannenkoeken Cafe

$35 for $75 Worth of Home-Delivered Organic Food from Nature’s Prime Organic Foods

These are all great deals, and that’s only food-related. Ladies, check out all of the different spa and salon treatments. Guys check out clothing deals and gym memberships. You can give Groupons as a gift, and now you even earn G’s for your purchases, that help you towards discounted groupons. Many sites have tried to compare to Groupon, but Groupon developed this creative buying power and they do it best.

Posted in cheap eat$ holiday$, cheap food for college students, feature, food on the go, foodie gifts, healthy food | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Let’s Take a Lunch Journey

By: Dinko Cirkic

Last month, I decided to go around downtown Chicago to find some pretty sweet breakfast places for my Cheap Eat$ Peeps and so I’m back again doing the same thing only this time around for lunch. That’s right cheap eater$, were going on another field trip in search of cool lunch joints. This field trip took me from Chicago’s historic Printers Row neighborhood, over by Polk and Dearborn, to Chicago’s swanky bourgeois Gold Coast downtown.

On this lunch journey I decided not to go all out on the sugar, which I might have overdone last time, and I decided to keep it under $10 as well. If you can’t recall my last “adventure” I went to the Bong Room for an omelette, but then went to for high sugar count at Orange and got an infamous French toast kabob infused with skewed fresh strawberries and pineapples, topped with honey and served with a coconut mango salad. Whew! I don’t think I’m due for another sugar mountain for another 3 months. However, this time around I went to an Italian deli located near DePaul and Loyola’s downtown campuses and had an awesome sandwich. I also checked out a Mexican joint near University of Illinois at Chicago and Columbia. That’s right Cheap Eat$ Peeps, I got all of you covered!

1. L’Appetito

L'Appetito

 

L’Appetito is an authentic Italian deli located in Chicago’s luxurious Gold Coast neighborhood. Specifically at 30 E. Huron St. (Huron & Wabash) right by DePaul and Loyola University downtown campuses. This sweet European deli is as European as any other deli I have seen in Chicago. They got Nutella, San Pellegrino Aranciata, Limonata, Petitbuer, etc. It’s location in downtown Chicago made me a little skeptical as to its authenticity because I figured it might be one of those “commercial deli spots”, but I was wrong. L’Appetito’s harbors everything European from jelly spread, to cookies, gelato, coffee, and even gummy bears.

 

Drinks

 

Yummy!

Salami

I was very happy upon walking in and went straight to the deli. L’Appetito offers a variety of options from a breakfast menu, to sandwiches, pasta & pizza, tostinos, and desserts. From the get-go, the gentleman behind the counter greeted me very kindly and asked me “What are you having?” I looked at the sandwich collection and asked for turkey on wheat bread with tomato’s, onions, mayo, and jalapeños. To which he simply replied, “You got it.” What can I say? A man of few words: simple, clear, cut to the chase no bullshit hospitality, got to love Italians. He gave me my sandwich, I paid for it ($5.76 w/ tax), and the rest was history. The sandwich was damn good. The turkey was packed beautifully, thinly sliced, and the veggies were on point as well.

Turkey Sandwich

Overall, I have to say I loved my experience at L’Appetito and if it were warmer out I would have gotten some gelato. I recommend all you Cheap Eat$ Peeps heading over there at some point or another. Bon Appétit.

2. Flaco’s Tacos

Flaco's Tacos


Flaco’s Tacos is located right on the corner of Dearborn and Polk St. where Chicago’s legendary cross-country railroad stations was, recognized book printing and publishing neighborhood existed which all took place in the early 20th Century.

Old Dearborn Station

This area has a ton of history so I decided to check it out for its food. Flaco’s Tacos is a trendy Mexican restaurant that’s got all your favorite southern foods under one roof. It’s located a few blocks from UIC and just a block from Columbia College. I hit up Flaco’s Tacos last Tuesday for my Mexican food craving and they did not disappoint me. As soon as I walked in the joint people hit me. I came there right around noon so it seems everyone was fixing for a little Mexican food. As I was looking through their menu and they had steak, chicken, fish, shrimp, pork tacos, burritos, tortillas, and nachos. So, I was bewildered with all these choices so I pulled the wildcard out: Veggie Burrito (I told you I was healthy this time around).

Veggie burrito

The veggie burrito was very delicious. It came with guacamole, black beans, jalapenos, lettuce, and some green thing, but it was good too. I ended up paying $7.76 for it, but this burrito was a brick so it was well worth it. Flaco’s Tacos also has a great dessert menu. They have fresh made cakes and cookies everyday. I didn’t get one this time, but will do next time. Definitely mark down Flaco’s Tacos for one of your Mexican food cravings. It’ll hit the spot.

Inside Flaco's

Well I hope you Cheap Eat$ Peeps enjoyed our second field trip together. Let me know what you think of this months selections and what some of your favorite spots are because Dinko gets very hungry and always need new spots around town. As always mad love.

Posted in cheap food for college students, feature, food on the go, Series, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Help to All Interview…

Jessica White is not your average burger in a bun. She is however, an old classmate of mine, a psych major at U of C, she’s smart and her curiosity exceeds that of a cat. For one of her classes, Jessica had to engage herself in an experience she had never been through before. Jessica chose to completely immerse herself as if she was homeless for four days straight- no money, no change of clothes, and no place to sleep. She wore only the clothes she had on. While she told me many cool stories about her experience, I wanted to focus specifically on her meal plan. I think you’ll be interested in this interview my cheap eat$ peeps, since being homeless requires a low budget diet.

Steph: Thank you for meeting with me Jessica. You are brave to completely submerge yourself as if you were homeless. Now, you previously told me that the hardest part of the whole experience was getting people to interact with you. Correct?

Jessica: Yes. Whether I was asking for food or money, or even just saying hello people gave me the dirtiest looks as if I were the most disgusting creature, or they would just completely ignore me. Mostly I was invisible.

Steph: Your homeless experience was obviously very tough. Focusing more on your experience with eating, what did you do for food or money for food?

Jessica: Well I sat outside of a few food places. McDonald’s, Potbelly, and Panera mostly. I tried to pick areas with a high traffic area of people. I wanted to completely submerge myself. I held a cup out and asked for money. Most people just walk by, but the key is eye contact. Once someone makes eye contact it’s a lot easier to draw them in. I think a lot of people were skeptical of whether I was homeless or not, because I hadn’t been living in the streets too long, so I didn’t exactly look grungy. Most people gave me loose change. One man in a nice peacoat and suit pants gave me a $5 bill. A lot of people saw me on their way in and brought out their left over food.

Steph: Did you eat the food that they gave you?

Jessica: It was very hard to at first. I had to accept the fact that I didn’t have any other options besides making money. So as long as it looked untouched, I would accept a cheeseburger or a cookie.

Steph: How often did you have to use money to buy food and specifically, how much did you make?

Jessica: It was hard because I never had very much money at all, so I had to figure out when to stop and find something cheap to eat. I made about $7 every 3 or four hours that I held the cup out. I mostly ate McDonalds. I used their dollar menu because it was the cheapeast and most filling. There were surprisingly a few hotdog stands that were well priced. Quite a few times workers gave me something extra for free like a cookie or a piece of bread.

Steph: Did you ever go hungry or feel sick?

Jessica: Honestly I wish I had done this for a week, because I never really went hungry, due to the fact that I looked nicer so people seemed to trust me more. They knew I wasn’t going to go off and buy drugs or anything.

Steph: What types of cheap eat$ would you recommend to our readers if they only had a few dollars in the freezing windy city?

Jessica: I’d say definitely fast food, but that’s obvious. If you go into grocery stores, there’s always some kind of deal on fruit, or snack items to fill you up. The places that look run down like a Billy Bob’s Rib Shack type place, are normally very cheap and surprisingly delicious, so I would recommend you keep your eyes peeled and stay open minded with those types of places.

Steph: Other than your homeless experience do you have any tips that you use on an everyday basis when you’d like to save money on food?

Jessica: Personally I like to cook at home a lot. I find that it’s much cheaper to buy groceries once a month and work with what I have, rather than eating out all the time. I also recommend that you create a budget plan for all your expenses. Ever since I did that, it’s been a lot easier to save my money, because I know exactly how much I have to spend, and how much I have to spend on whatever I want after paying the rent and the bills.

Steph: Most of our cheap eat$ peeps will probably not be going homeless anytime soon, but we thank you for sharing your eating experiences with us from your experiment, and giving some ideas on how to stay cheap and get a good meal for your buck.

Cheap Eat$ Peeps I know this isn’t the most light hearted of subjects, but many people out there today are living homeless and have to work very hard to get food. We thank Jessica for letting us interview her and giving some good tips, but please remember to help out the homeless if you are able to spare some change in light of the holiday season. Also, if any of you have some great budgeting tips, with the holidays coming up, please feel free to share, there’s never too many cheap eat$ tips to give. Leave some love Cheap Eat$ Peeps and Happy Holidays!

 

Posted in cheap eat$ holiday$, cheap food for college students, feature, food on the go, Interview | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Beat The Freeze

By: Nicole Kucharski


Now that Chicago has received its first snowfall, we have countless weeks of frozen red cheeks and icy toes to look forward to. Hair and skincare will become especially important this season since cold temperatures can take a toll on our health and beauty. So Chi-town peeps, I bring you some cheap food solutions for keeping yourself in tip-top shape this wintry season.

Lips:

Lips tend to get cracked and chapped due to the icy winds and freezing temperatures. Solution:

-Just a dab of honey will keep your lips plump and moist when all else fails. Did I mention it tastes sweet so your lips will be extra kissable?

-You can also apply a small drop of olive oil to lips that need some saving.

-Another weird but effective method for dry lips consists of rubbing a lemon dipped in sugar over your lips, which is then followed by applying a layer of glycerin on top.

-To soothe lips in need, try smoothing a cucumber slice over your lips for instant relief.

Regardless of the remedy that you choose, it’s important to stay hydrated all day which can help prevent excessive lip cracking and chapping.
Hair:

Hair is fragile and prone to breakage especially during the winter time. Instead of spending money on expensive hair masks try making your own protein food mask at home.

-A mixture of avocado and olive oil is perfect for dry hair (keep in mind to use only a small amount of olive oil in the mixture). All you do is apply it as any deep conditioner, leave in your hair for up to 15 minutes and rinse.

-If you have blonde hair that tends to get dull in the winter time, try rinsing hair with a combination of warm water and lemon juice. It should give your hair the shine and boost it needs to look glamorous during the holidays.

It is good to remember that some of these food items can do multiple things for your hair. For instance, avocado and olive oil not only provide dry hair with moisture, but eliminate that annoying winter static.

Skin:


Dry and itchy skin is especially prominent in the winter time, but don’t you worry there are some cheap food solutions for that as well.

-If you’re in the mood to take a bath, add some oatmeal in the mix for a soothing skin treatment. All you do is take oatmeal flakes (Quaker Oats works just fine) and put them through the food processor until they become finer in texture . Mix the oatmeal flakes into a warm bath (avoid the water being super hot because then the oatmeal wont work as well) and relax!

-For an uber moisturizing mask try, skin expert, Kevin Gatto’s unique mixture: cocoa powder (Hershey’s for instance), honey and heavy cream. The mask should stay on your face for about 20-30 minutes. It’s not only cheap to make, but also smells and tastes delicious.

The good things about these food remedies, is that  you can find all of the necessary ingredients right in your kitchen or at your local grocer’s. The price tag in comparison to store or salon products isn’t even comparable. For instance you’ll pay about $5-6 for a bottle of olive oil ad avocado while salon hair masks can cost you anywhere from $30 to $100! Cheap eater$, we know beauty is important to you. Try out some of these cheap food remedies and tell us what you think!

Posted in cheap eat$ holiday$, easy recipes | 1 Comment