Saturday, July 23, 2016

Red Mango

A place that my kids have come to love (introduced by their aunt and uncle) is Red Mango. If we're heading to one of the stores nearby, we sometimes stop for them to get a treat. It's one of those build-your-own and pay-by-the-weight places. There are toppings and sprinkles galore. While they pile on the toppings, I usually sample a taste or two - the Lucky Taro was one of the flavors on our last stop and it was really yummy!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Party time at Bohemian Joe's

Recently I attended a retirement party at Bohemian Joe's and just had to share some visuals of the delicious meal. They have a small private room at the north end of the dining room that is great for small gatherings.

This crab dip is delicious!

They have the best bleu cheese dressing.

Enjoyed the pizza margherita.

The bruschetta drizzled with balsamic.
One of the specials that week was bluegill.

I tried out the ribeye - very good.

Finished off the meal with bread pudding. It was delicious!

Go to for more information and follow along on Facebook.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Refrigerator Pickles

Our family took a trip out to Garwood Orchard in LaPorte, Indiana last weekend and we picked a few things - green beans, blackberries, peppers, blueberries and pickles. I love to make refrigerator pickles in the summer to grab as a snack or use as a condiment for burgers or sandwiches.

We picked several pounds and I sliced some up and cut some into wedges and put them in jars and plastic containers in the fridge and after a week they are pretty tasty. This is such an easy recipe.

3 cups of water
1 cup of vinegar
1 tbsp. sea salt
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. minced garlic
sprigs of fresh dill (or a couple teaspoons of dried dill)
fresh pickles (I used three large pickles)

Boil your water and vinegar with salt and sugar. After it cools, transfer to a container and add garlic, pickles and dill. Cover and refrigerate for at least three days. Keep stored in refrigerator for 30 days.

Gouda and Avocado Chicken Sandwich

Many of our summer meals are made on the grill. There are lots of burgers and lots of toppings. But, chicken breasts are another item that we consume a lot of in the summer. Sometimes slathered with barbecue and sometimes marinated in other flavors. We always make extra for lunches the next day. Recently I marinated several in Italian dressing and grilled them. They make for great sandwiches.

This marinated chicken breast went on a sesame seed bun topped with gouda, avocado, red leaf lettuce and mayonnaise. There are so many toppings that can be used for sandwiches and burgers and I found a winner in this combo.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

10 Kid Picnic Picks

Keeping kids busy during the summer means lots of time outdoors and while you're out, you still want to make sure they're getting something substantial in their bellies...because, kids that are hot and hungry are not a good mix. Here are 10 items to pack in your next picnic basket:

1) Viki's Granola - Granola has a lot of health benefits - Viki's is sodium free, gluten free, dairy free, kosher with no sugar added, no preservatives and using whole grains. It's also great for kids to make their own trail mix (by adding some of the cranberries, nuts and fishy crackers shown.

2) Nuts - It's a good idea to bring dry food that eliminate the need for ice packs or coolers. A handful of cashews or almonds or pecans are a great snack that will give an energy boost.

3) Blueberries - It's a superfood that kids often love - no utensils required.

4) Tuna and cracker pack - If you don't want to load up a bunch of sandwiches and have to worry about keeping them cold, this is a great alternative. The packs even come with a little spoon for spreading.

5) Honestly Cranberries - I was surprised to learn how much added sugar there is in packaged store-bought cranberries. This brand doesn't add extra sugar. It's a nice, natural snack.

6) Aqua Ball - For kids who just won't drink plain water, this drink doesn't have corn syrup or artificial sweeteners. Stevia Leaf Extract and a little natural flavor makes this appealing to kids without corn syrup that is loaded into a lot of juices.

7) Goldfish Crackers - Because who doesn't love this baked snack? Also easy for kids to grab on the go when they can be bothered with getting off the slide to take a lunch break.

8) Apple slices with peanut butter - Add a little protein without the need for refrigeration. Kids love to dip things, too, and apples are the ideally healthy dipping device.

9) Go Organically Fruit Snacks - I quit buying fruit snacks for my kids a while back because, well, they typically just are not healthy despite having the word "fruit" in them. Loaded with corn syrup and artificial flavors, they just were something I phased out. However, when I got some Go Organically fruit snacks to try out, I was glad to see it was something I could feel ok giving to my kids. They do have sugar, but it's organic cane sugar. That's what I always look for now on labels so that I can avoid corn syrup and artificial sweeteners like Splenda, Sweet & Low, etc. These are made with organic juices and puree blends and it really tasted good - not artificially over sweet. My kids were excited to taste test them and they were gone before I knew it.

10) Lorna Doone - Just because. I'm not a big cookie eater, but this is one that I can't resist. It's a good portable one for a picnic. No chocolate or chocolate chips to melt. No creme to ooze out. Just a good travel cookie.

So, pack up that basket and head out for a hike or a trip to the zoo or the park or the beach and stock up on these 10 recommendations that will help keep the kids full and happy on your excursion!

***Vicki's Granola, Aqua Ball, Go Organically Fruit Snacks and Honestly Cranberries were provided for purpose of a review. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.

Ginger Peach Iced Tea

I'm not much of a hot beverage kind of person, even in the winter. All year long, I enjoy iced tea...but especially on steamy summer days when you serve the glass loaded with ice and the outside of the glass covers with condensation. It's so refreshing.

Iced tea was our usual beverage when we were kids. Dad made instant Lipton tea every day and we had it with our meals. I've gotten away from the instant tea that dad favors and I also have cut down drastically on the sugar that I add (Dad actually encouraged me to do that..I was really hooked on very sweet tea for a while.) 

Sometimes in the summer I make sun tea. I used to go through a couple clear sun tea dispenser jars each summer. and I'd wear out the nozzles or they'd crack. Now I use my clear Pampered Chef gallon pitcher. I put in 4 or 5 tea bags and fill it with water and let it sit in the sun for an hour or two. Then I add sugar and I'm ready to go.

However, I learned last year a "recipe" for sweet tea. Sounded kind of strange to me as all I really knew was steeping tea in hot water for hot tea or making sun tea for iced tea (or dad's old instant method.) Somehow I never thought about steeping tea as if making a cup of hot tea and then adding ice to it. But, once I did it ,I realized how much better it tastes. So, here's my recipe for one of my favorite varieties of iced tea - Decaf Ginger Peach.

I keep my cabinet loaded with black tea bags and also with a variety of flavored tea bags and loose leaf teas. I'm very fond of The Republic of Tea and many of their great flavors.

3 black tea tea bags 
2 Republic of Tea Decaf Ginger Peach tea bags
2 cups boiling water (and additional cold water to fill pitcher)
1 cup sugar
1 gallon pitcher

So, when I have seen tea recipes, they call for 1 cup of sugar for 2 quarts. I use one cup of sugar for a gallon so it's not overly sweet.

Boil two cups of water. Steep bags in boiling water and add sugar and stir until dissolved. Pour into a one gallon pitcher and then add cold water to fill to top. Stir and enjoy. I sometimes like to add some fresh mint leaves to my glass, too. :)

Thursday, July 14, 2016

La Voute Celebrates Bastille Day and First Anniversary

About a year ago I attended a media preview event as the La Banque Hotel was about to open. We toured the newly renovated hotel, which previously housed a bank. It is stunning and I love the cool, creative touches of using elements of the former bank in the decorating. Inside La Banque is their bistro, La Voute, where we joined for a lunch feast to learn what would be on the menu.

La Banque is French for "the bank" and La Voute is French for "the vault." The dining room features the bank's original vault with a huge door signed by J. Edgar Hoover, then director of the FBI.

We enjoyed a lovely lunch at La Voute and the place is beyond impressive. There's nothing like it in the south suburbs and I'm so grateful that we can enjoy a fabulous French-inspired meal in such a beautiful setting without having to head into the city.

We sampled several appetizers, entrees and desserts on our visit, including the best scallops I have ever eaten in my life.

Here's the full press release (below) on the anniversary celebration, which coincides with Bastille Day. It's a great time to plan a visit if you haven't been there or to return for a new taste of France. Oh, and just a related bit of advice - I just re-posted on the Chicago Foodie Sister FB page today a review of My Life In France by Julia Child that I put on the blog after reading it a few summers ago. If you're looking for some summer reading, it's one of my very favorite books and fitting to read in tandem with a visit for Bastille Day.

P.S. The photos in this post are from the media preview I attended.

La Banque Hotel & La Voute Bistro and Bar Celebrates Anniversary 
Historic bank reinvented as luxury hotel with bistro dining in vault toasts
success with anniversary specials! 

(July 6, 2016)  Time to pop the champagne! La Banque Hotel and La Voute Bistro and Bar in the former Great Lakes Bank building in the heart of Homewood celebrates their one-year anniversary. A destination in its own right, La Voute Bistro & Bar is situated in a section of the bank that dates back to 1925 and includes the bank’s main vault. The vault provides a unique backdrop for the breakfast buffet; and a unique private dining experience for lunch or dinner. The focal point of the vault is the original massive pneumatic door that was inspected and signed by legendary former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. 
Starting on July 14th Bastille Day, the properties will have specials for guests to enjoy until July 20th!
  • July 14th- Bastille Day Celebration: The hotel and restaurant will be decorated in blue, white and red flags with sounds of French music from Maurice Chevalier and accordion player Edith Piaf all week. 
Blue, white and red macaroons desserts in each guest room for the week.  
Toasts of the special new cocktail menu that includes: French Connection Martini, French Kiss Martini, Bellini Martini, Kir Royal, and a celebratory Blue, White and Red Champagne Flight.  
This will also kick-off raffles for every day of the week that include prize package of La Banque Hotel stay, golf package at Ravisloe Country Club, French wine, and dinner and brunch for two guests at La Voute Bistro and Bar. 
The "Gold Bar" signature dessert
  • July 15th- A Real French Experience $32 includes 5 French wines to be paired with 5 French cheeses from 5-6 p.m. along with a special surprise dessert from Pastry Queen Erica.
  • July 17th- Sunday Champagne Brunch Special brunch with a hand-picked champagne selection with Kirs, Champagne flights from the bistro’s champagne bar. 
  • July 18th- Homewood social business lunch on the patio, $19 from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Drinks and passed appetizers for all Homewood business owners to celebrate our city’s growth and success! 
  • July 19th- Anniversary Wine and Dinner Pairing deals starting at $44 includes 5 course menu of Chicken Lemon Soup, Seared Scallop with Crunchy Turkey Bacon and a Split Pea Puree, a Roasted Pork Medallion with Mashed Potato and a Grain Mustard Sauce along with Baked Brie En Croute with a dessert of Milk Chocolate Pot de Creme’.  
  • July 20th- Half Off Our Most Popular Dinner Entrees at La Voute Bistro and Bar
  • July 21st- Grand Finale of La Voute Bistro and Bar Prime Rib Buffet – all you can eat- $42 with $5 martinis

Enjoy a Day of History and Beer at Milwaukee Firkin Fest

Milwaukee Firkin Fest is coming up! T's a must for beer lovers looking to head out for their next adventure. Another fun fest organized by Brewfest Partners, this popular beer celebration takes place in Cathedral Square Park on July 23 from 4 to 7:30 p.m. VIP early entry tickets have sold out, but you can still snag a general admission ticket.

First of all, if you have no idea what a firkin is, start by reading this. So, firkin fest is unique in that it's not just a fest where the beer is flowing from a variety of different brewers. This fest features naturally carbonated cask conditioned ales from in and around Milwaukee, as well as a few guest brewers. So, it's tasting galore through this retro method and a big history lesson to boot.

Listen to live music by the Squeezettes while you're there and grab a bite from local food vendors that will have specialties available for purchase. 

General admission is $49 (which includes unlimited 3 oz. pours in your commemorative pint glass) with designated driver tickets for $15, which gets you a commemorative glass and unlimited soda.  No one under age 21 will be admitted. Get your tickets at 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Johnson's Farm Produce

For several years our family has made a trip in the spring to go strawberry picking at Johnson's Farm Produce in Hobart. However, this year we just couldn't find the time to make it happen. I was in the area, though in the middle of June and stopped in. Lucky for me there were still fresh    strawberries just picked from the fields.

I found a table with buckets of strawberries. When I heard an employee say, "These were picked an hour ago," and "These are the very last for the season," I headed for the table. So did two other customers. One grabbed four buckets. As I was perusing the inventory (down to about 12 buckets at that point, another customer reached in front of me and took the buckets I was eyeing. At that point I just grabbed a bucket - they all looked and smelled awesome - and I made my way to the checkout.

The farm stand was loaded with beautiful produce - and I was totally digging the adorable chalkboard signs. :)

When I got to the checkout, the fresh cherries were staring me in the face and I couldn't resist.

The place was also loaded with beautiful flowers...huge overflowing baskets and planters, many of them buy 2, get 1 free. Sadly, I had my little car with a full trunk and it was pouring down rain, so I didn't bring any home, but I will definitely keep the place in mind next time I'm out in that direction or for next spring when it's time to get flowers.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Cozy Dog Drive In

I was introduced to the Cozy Dog Drive In probably 15 years ago when we decided to hit some spots along old Route 66 on a trip to St. Louis. It has a fun history and claims to be the place that introduced the corn dog to the the Midwest. The restaurant on Sixth Street in Springfield is somewhat of a historical museum to Route 66.

On this most recent stop, I just ordered a cup of ice cream to go since I had just had a horseshoe at D'Arcy's Pint. But, I couldn't leave Springfield without stopping at this foodie landmark. It's one of those places that you have to hit just to say you've been there - and that you've tried a cozy dog. The cozy dogs are pretty awesome - with a nice crunch on the outside - and the prices are very reasonable.

Cozy Dog Drive In
2935 So. Sixth Street
Springfield, IL