Mercadito & Muffins

This week I happened to come across a website called Cheeky Chicago; a girl’s guide to all good things in Chicago.  There was a section devoted to food and they highlighted this restaurant.  Once I read the review and saw the pics, I knew it was next on my list.  Mercadito is one of the reasons I love being in Chicago. You walk in and the design of the place is extremely unique.  Thick roped light fixtures, blended in with sea-green glass tiles, and terra-cotta walls.  At the bar, you see limes being freshly squeezed, and the bartender pulling a Tom Cruise move from “Cocktail.”  I can tell you this, they don’t mess around with the margaritas at this place. It was really a hard decision on what to get, but because there were so many unique items on the menu I thought to really test the joint out I would do a few “standard” items and see how they fared, before going to exotic-ville.  So, first up was a margarita tradicional; tequila blanco, curacao, fresh lime juice, and agave.

Fresh squeezed lime juice took this cocktail to another level.  And because I think I may be addicted to avocados, this was the hardest decision yet.  There are three different types of guacamole on the menu.  Again, I decided to see how the tradicional was.  It had tomatillo pico de gallo, jalapeno, garlic, key lime, and cilantro.  I thought Rosa’s in NY was tasty, but the flavor of the key lime and the big chunks of avocado really made this one special.  The chips were warm and were made fresh that day.

And last on the menu to order was the tacos.  The waiter’s shirt said, “the taco that changed my life.”  I wonder what one that was?  I really wanted to try several out, especially the hongos.  They are made with huitlacoche- the Mexican version of the truffle.  Huitlacoche is actually a fungus that grows on corn.  The chef from Rosa did a James Beard dinner to try to get people introduced to them.

In the end, I decided to go with the camaron.  These were warm little corn tortillas filled with shrimp, roasted garlic, chipotle mojo, and avocado.  What can I say….other than I will be back!!

This week my friend asked me to make up a healthy gift basket for a friend of hers.  We decided to do a breakfast basket.  The game plan was organic orange juice, organic yogurt, homemade granola, banana crunch muffins, and cinnamon flavored butter.

I really liked the sound of Ina Garten’s banana crunch muffins.  But if you have seen her show, you know the food is not only delicious, but very high in calories.  So I tweaked this recipe; something I encourage you readers to do when looking at a recipe.  For instance, the recipe called for whole milk,  I  substituted almond milk.  I omitted the sweetened coconut b/c the store bought kind is loaded with high fructose corn syrup.  The granola was home-made (combo of almonds, oats, a little organic sugar, and organic butter). Everything from the eggs to the flour were quality ingredients.

Most recipes call from an exorbitant amount of sugar.  At NGI we did recipe conversions where we took a “normal” recipe and slowly started changing the ingredients to more healthier ones.  At some point, it really did a disservice to the recipe, but it is possible to cut back on the sugar amount and substitute liquid for liquid in some cases.  So on your next baking day, try picking one ingredient and substitute it out for a healthier one.  Happy Holidays!

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