Saturday, June 30, 2012

Apricot preserves create great glaze for pork chops

In sorting though digital pictures I came across these from a few months back, but I was reminded of the wonderful taste produced by this apricot jam from one of my favorite little stores, Capri Imports in Dyer. I slathered it on some pork chops, placed them in my crock pot and added a little water to cover the bottom of the pot. Turned it on high for about 3 hours and the results were delicious!

Pretty much any citrus jam or salsa works well for this and it works well with chicken, also. Last summer while out at an apple farm, I got a jars of some locally made jellies and jams. I also got a jar of peach and vidalia onion salsa. I put it in the crock pot with some chicken. It made a beautiful meal that I served over white rice.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Seven Chicago restaurants make Wine Enthusiast Magazine's Top 100

Wine Enthusiast Magazine recently released their list of Top 100 Wine Restaurants of 2012 in America. Editors "combed the nation for the ultimate wine-centric dining establishments."  The hot spots that made the cut were rated as standouts for wine lovers, "boasting visionary beverage programs and innovative menus, with eye-catching ambiance and exceptional service." On the site you'll find the complete list along with interviews with such renowned chefs as Rick Bayless and sommeliers from some of the top picks. 

Seven Chicago eateries made the list:

Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill


Frontera Grill and Topolobampo

graham elliot


Longman and Eagle



Thursday, June 28, 2012

It's blueberry picking time

For several years, our family has made a trip each year to Michigan City, Indiana to pick blueberries. Of all the u-picks we've been to (which includes everything from strawberries to beans to apples to peaches to pickles to pumpkins,) I think blueberry picking is my favorite. The big bushes have berries from the ground up, so no matter who's picking, whether big or small, you're going to find something within reach. They're also easier to pick off the bushes than say, strawberries, which you have to tenderly twist without bruising and crushing. 

And then there's the goodies you make once you get home. We try to get about ten pounds on our visits, although this year I think we'll set our goal a little higher. At least half get washed and go in the freezer to use mainly for blueberry pancakes  and blueberry muffins throughout the year.

The rest we wash and put in the fridge, except for what we share with the neighbors and our parents. We throw some in yogurt, maybe make a few smoothies, perhaps a coffee cake or two and put some in a pie, either alone or mixed with raspberries and strawberries. Nothing smells quite as wonderful as a triple berry pie in the oven. This year, I may try blueberry jam and blueberry syrup for the first time.

So, most years we have gone to State Line Blueberries, which we really love. Last year, we somehow turned off course and ended up down the road and were surprised to come across Blueberries of Indiana in La Porte. We were actually kind of lost and weren't sure how to find State Line Blueberries, but since we'd stumbled upon this place, we decided to give it a try. There were plenty of great looking berries and the place was much less crowded than our usual spot. We only saw one other family come through while we were there for at least an hour. We enjoyed a conversation with the owner, who if I remember correctly is a professor of agriculture at a university in one of the Carolinas during the winter months and he then travels up to Indiana for the summer months. He was fascinating and full of information. Oh, and it was just $1.50 a pound to pick your own. What a bargain!

Once we got home and were sorting them out we found some biggies - like quarter size! I can't wait to make a trip there again!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Seasons 52 introduces tastes of summer

I was excited to get an invite recently to a media event to introduce the new summer menu at Seasons 52. I'd been to an event earlier this year for the opening of the Oak Brook location and that meal ranks up there in probably the top 10 I've ever had. Now it's summer and that means a shift in the menu at Seasons 52, which has seasonally inspired menus with fresh ingredients and believe it or not, less than 475 calories for each menu item. I posted last week about the flatbread and wine pairing served during the cocktail reception. Now I'm moving on to the first course.

Chilled Lobster & Shrimp Spring Roll
with a sauce trio: cool salsa verde, aromatic lemongrass, sweet-hot red chili

A couple years ago I attended a cooking demo with my sisters at Thai Zie Noodles and Bar in St. Charles during their Sisters Weekend and the owner, Champ, was teaching us how to make these raw spring rolls. His, of course, looked fantastic. Mine, not so much. There's quite an art to getting these rolled exactly the way you'd like them. Anyone who has mastered that deserves a high five. But, when someone can not only excel in the presentation, but create a refreshing appetizer like this that is stuffed with lobster, shrimp, carrots, peppers, cilantro and bean-thread noodles - I hope I got that right...I did ask the server, but my handwriting isn't the best! :) - they probably should also have a big bear hug coming. The dips were each so different, yet all of them screamed "Summatime!!" I think the aromatic lemongrass was my fave.

Watermelon refresher and Strawberry Lemon Refresher

Paired with this course was Hirsch #1 Gruner Veltlier (Kamtal '09/'10), but in keeping with the summer theme, we also got to try out a couple of warm-weather cocktails. The first was the Watermelon Refresher, which was made with Atlantico Rum, agave nectar, lime juice and crushed watermelon. The Strawberry Lemon Refresher included a darker version of Atlantico, lemon juice, agave nectar and strawberry.

As we sat down to begin dinner, we watched a live stream with Seasons 52's culinary director and master sommelier and when they told us about the drinks, they cut to a message from Enrique Igleseas with a thumbs up for the rum and some nice word about his favorite restaurant. Cute touch.

Well, that's it for now. Watch for an upcoming post on the second summer course.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Gayety's is a great stop for a sweet treat

We have this lovely little local ice cream shop and candy store called Gayety's, which originated in Chicago and later moved out to Lansing on Torrence Avenue and then to a location on Ridge Road. I've been going there for years for the occasional treat of hand-dipped chocolates or ice cream. There's now also a location in Schererville and Gayety's chocolates can be found at the Horseshoe Casino and four downtown Chicago hotels and Phillips Flowers and Gifts in Westmont, IL. Oh, and you can also order their chocolates online -

When I walk in sometimes I want to pat myself on the back. Why? Because a few years back I e-mailed the owners letting them know how wonderful their ice cream was but how sad I was that they didn't offer kiddie cones or kiddie sized sundaes. The portions were huge -- a sundae is truly a two-person portion. There's no way one adult could finish it, let alone a kid. Although I loved it, I didn't go there much because I'd pay for this huge serving for one of the kids and half of it would melt before they could get to it or they filled up quick and the rest got tossed. It seemed like such a waste of such an awesome frozen treat. They sent an encouraging e-mail back and soon there were kiddie cones and mini sundaes on the menu. Maybe they already had it in the works. Maybe they'd heard the same things from similar folks. I'm sure I wasn't entirely responsible for it, but I'll take partial credit. :)

Among the treats offered are sundaes, sodas, malts, shakes, cones and ice cream pies. It's been ages since I got an ice cream pie, but now that I'm looking at the options, I think I may drop some hints to the others in this house about one for my upcoming 40th birthday. :) Listen to these descriptions:

Poulee's Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Delight
(Poulee = Greek for "Grandpa")
Chocolate cookie crust with peanut butter and chocolate syrup on the bottom. Chocolate silk ice cream, topped with whipped cream, peanut butters cups and drizzled chocolate.

Big Daddy's Brownie Delight
Chocolate cookie crust with layer of fudge and brownie on the bottom. Chocolate silk ice cream and Gayety's vanilla bean topped with chocolate drizzles, brownie pieces and shavings of chocolate.

South Chicago Strawberry-Banana Split
Graham cracker crust with vanilla bean, strawberry cream and tropical banana ice cream topped with strawberries, nuts and chocolate drizzles.

And there are five others.

On the ice cream side, the tropical banana ice cream is to die for! The other regular flavors are vanilla, chocolate silk, strawberry, butter pecan, chocolate chip, blue moon and cotton candy. They also have seasonal flavors and now that summer is here you can also get aloha pina colada and dreamsicle.

They have a variety of sundaes and nine special sundaes, which includes an awesome fruit salad sundae with three scoops of ice cream topped with fresh fruit salad, sliced bananas, pure whipped cream and chopped nuts. By the way, the whipped cream is made there fresh each day. The ice cream is good, but (in my opinion) it's the whipped cream that makes it. My favorite sundae is the muddle: two scoops of homemade ice cream, topped with hot fudge, caramel, pure whipped cream and pecans. If you like Turtles, you will love this...way better than a Turtle. I don't know what kind of pecans they use, but they're the best I've ever had. I usually get the mini muddle, which is plenty big for me.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Bridal Shower Sweet Treats

At my niece's bridal shower earlier this month, the sweets were delightful. I'm not much of a cake person and usually pass it up even if I'm at a birthday party or other event. If it's rich and chocolaty or banana flavor, I may make an exception. In place of a cake, there was a sweet table with cake pops, chocolate covered strawberries and bright pink Sixlets candy. :) Lots of chocolate to satisfy my chocoholic sweet tooth. The cake pops were a huge hit, ordered from MADPOPPERS.COM. There were yellow and may have been some chocolate ones...and there was the bride's favorite flavor - Red Velvet!!! I had one of those and could have easily sat an eaten a dozen more! Aren't they adorable, too??????

Not sure where the chocolate covered strawberries were from, but they were big and juicy!

Here's what my dessert plate looked like:

Among those big arrangements of cake pops were a bride and groom. :)

There were also some white chocolate covered strawberries.

And here I am with the bride, my beautiful niece - the oldest of my 17 nieces and nephews.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Changes at Chili's get seal of approval

Last week my son had an eye doctor appointment and I decided to make it into date night with my 8-year-old, since I try to squeeze in one-on-one time as much as I can with my five sons. It's not so easy sometimes. So, after we ordered his new glasses, I asked if he wanted to stop for dinner at Chili's, which is just down the street....and I remembered that I had a coupon for a free kids meal...and I happened to actually have it with me. What luck!

So, in we went and noticed immediately that the decor has been updated from our last visit. Sometimes restaurant upgrades work, sometimes they don't (I'm not a fan of the new Baker's Square layout - with a more open setup and lots of televisions. It feels more like a sports bar to me and that's a spot I normally go to for breakfast. I don't want to feel like I'm in a sports bar at 9 a.m.)

Chili's remodel includes lots of screens...even tablets on each table. Normally, I wouldn't be too excited about this, but being with a child,  it was a great form of entertainment as we waited for our dinner. The tablets have several options, including classic cartoons and games. I also loved the movie app, which allowed you to view movie trailers and see showtimes of each movie at local theatres. So, if you are planning dinner and a movie, it's all there at your fingertips. How cool is that?

The server informed us that they had new soda menus with 100+ different combinations, like Strawberry Sprite and Vanilla Cherry Dr. Pepper. I love that they offer the 2 for $20 combo, with an appetizer and two entrees for the price. They also have some great lunch options for $6, $7 or $8. I did make a lunch stop there a few months ago with one of the boys and it must have been in the middle of the remodel transition because the menu had been modified, but the decor hadn't been upgraded yet. I was pleased with my sandwich and soup combo. I love the lighter options now available. I opted for a salad with grilled chicken that was awesome! This time, though, I hadn't had much of a lunch and was wanting something a little more subtantial. I got the 6-ounce sirloin - obviously not up to par with an upscale steakhouse, but a good quality piece of meat cooked exactly like I requested served with loaded mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli. I was a happy camper. The only thing it was lacking was a roll or some bread, which either didn't come with it or the server forgot to deliver.

The chain also gets props for the options on the kid menu. There were 11 entree options, including a grilled chicken platter. You never see that on a kids menu. They do, however, offer the fried counterpart - chicken nuggets for those kids who prefer them. And there's other standard kid fare - pizza, mac and cheese, quesadilla, corn dog, grilled cheese. And I love that they don't automatically come with fries. Again, there's 11 options for side dishes -- mandarin oranges, steamed broccoli, rice, cinnamon apples and salad among them. My son opted for corn on the cob with his. Between the menu options and the tablets, this is a great option for dining out with kids. Oh, and I mentioned that I had a free kid meal coupon. I think one of the kids had earned it at school. But, the waitress told me that every Tuesday kids eat free. Not sure if it's like that at all locations, but that's a big plus. No pictures this time. It was a spontaneous stop, so I didn't have my camera handy and the camera on my phone is pretty much worthless. But visit the website for menu options:

Saturday, June 23, 2012


So, recently my niece's wedding shower was held at Jane's in the Bucktown neighborhood of Chicago. What a delightful place. My sister-in-law and her youngest daughter had the place decked out in shades of pink, the bride's favorite color. They did an awesome job. And the food was spectacular. These were our lunch options:

BlueberryStrawberry/Peach Crepes, served with roasted potatoes and turkey sausage.

Pan-Seared Chicken Breast
with Toscano salami, arugula, Balsamic & Provolone on French bread 

Chopped Asian Chicken Salad 
field greens, carrots, daikon radish, napa cabbage, red onions & wontons tossed in honey mustard rice-wine vinaigrette

Angel hair pasta, cilartro, spinach, tomato, chipotle pesto and cotija cheese

House made quinoa and vegetable garden burger, topped wtih mushrooms, sauteed in red wine and monterey jack cheese, served with mashed potatoes and balsamic salad.

And the bride, center, with her sister and maid of honor on left and my sister -in-law on right.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Chef Klaus' Bier Stube: Schnitzel Time

So, last week I posted on our recent visit to Chef Klaus' Bier Stube in Frankfort, but only got as far as the beverages and appetizers. The imported beer options were cause for smiles and the Stuffed Portabella appetizer was beyond awesome!!!

Now...on to the entrees. I am fond of several German specialities, but my hands down fave is wiener schnitzel. I know there are so many variations, but I love it in its simplest form with just a little lemon juice on top. So, that's what I ordered...a comfortable choice of thin battered-pork crisped and browned. I love the adorable little yellow cheesecloth wraps on the lemons tied with a cute green little bow. Awesome idea! No more seeds slipping out as you squeeze. Mine was perfect.

Hubby ordered Jaeger Schnitzel, which had the addition of brown gravy and mushroom. He was quite happy with his choice.

On the side was fried potatoes - a simple side dish that I adore. I've often had it with a bit of onion added in.  This version was a little different than what I'm used to, with diced sausage and green onion. It did add a bit of flavor, but I think I like the stripped down version a little better. With a milder meat and potato side, it makes the red cabbage even tastier. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Creative Coffee Drinks sought for Red Cup Showdown

Well, I'm not a coffee drinker. Not at all. Although that doesn't stop me from enjoying a good tiramisu. :)

Anyway, I got a press release from Seattle's Best Coffee about the Red Cup Showdown at the Illinois State Fair. Entries are being accepted for the live cooking competition for up to $10,000 in prizes. "Seattle’s Best Coffee and Food Network’s Jeff Mauro are launching The Red Cup Showdown, a coast-to-coast search for the most imaginative coffee drink," the release states.

Jeff Mauro is the host of Food Network’s “Sandwich King” and is joining Seattle’s Best Coffee on the endeavor. He is winner of the seventh season of Food Network Star and graduated from California's Hollywood Kitchen Academy. 

The contest is open to Illinois cooks and coffee lovers who have a creative drink recipe using the coffee. The finalist who takes home the blue ribbon at the Illinois State Fair will be sent to New York City to battle against finalists from four other state fairs as well as one Facebook finalist for the $10,000 grand prize and the chance to have their coffee drink featured at Seattle’s Best Coffee locations nationwide. In addition to winning a trip to New York, the Illinois finalist will receive $500 and free coffee for a year, valued at $500.

To enter the Red Cub Showdown, visit (click on General Premium Book and scroll to page 99). A panel of judges will select the finalist based on appetite appeal, uniqueness and the story behind the coffee drink idea. The entry deadline is July 15. 

Barbecue pork sandwiches, how I love thee

Ok, I know I posted this before, but I just love that something soooo good can be sooo easy. 

Slow cooker shredded barbecue pork

1 pork tenderloin
Half a bottle of Sweet Baby Ray's Barbecue Sauce (about 8 to 10 ounces)
1/4 cup water

Place pork in slow cooker. Pour water over pork. Add sauce on top -- add more or less depending on your taste. (You can always add more on top when you make your sandwiches.) Put on high for 3 to 4 hours, switch to low for another hour. 

When done remove and place on cutting board and use fork to shred the meat. Scoop onto bun and top with more sauce if desired -- and additional condiments if you choose: cole slaw, mayonnaise, pickle, etc.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Savory Summer Starters on menu at Seasons 52

Last night I had the opportunity to attend a media dinner at Season's 52's Schaumburg location where the new summer menu items were introduced during a live stream from Florida with Chef Cliff Pleau and Master Sommelier George Miliotes following a cocktail reception where two flatbreads - Artichoke & Goat Cheese and BBQ Chicken - were offered with a pairing of Aveleda Vinho Verde, a bright slightly fruity wine from Portugal. 

Miliotes is quite a character and the way the two play off the other is quite entertaining. The duo would be great hosts for a cooking show. I was able to also attend a preview dinner at the new Oak Brook location (the chain's 23rd restaurant) last month, where both hosted the dinner live. It was so fun to see the two interact with each other and with the guests, giving background on the suppliers and the ingredients and even offering cooking tips.

The evening continued with four courses with wine pairings for us to sample. It was quite a feast and I'm still awe at the concept of this fresh grill where every item on the menu comes in at a calorie count of less than 475 calories.

I'm a big fan of both artichokes and goat cheese, so I was over the moon with this first flatbread, which is my favorite of the flatbreads I've tried at Seasons 52.

The BBQ Chicken Flatbread was also bursting with flavor - without having too much heat - on a delightfully crispy and super thin crust. I've also tried the Chipotle Shrimp Flatbread, which is amazing.

This was one of my favorite wines of the evening as I prefer white wines that aren't particularly dry. This was a great start.

I'll write more in upcoming posts about the dinner, which included several items on the seasonal summer menu, which debuted June 19 and continues for about three months, with the exception of the Wild Alaskan Copper River Salmon, which will only be around for a couple more weeks. Well worth planning an immediate trip just to get this entree while you can!

A bite of burger

I really don't eat hamburgers between the months of like October and March. That's because here in Chicago, that's usually the point that it gets too cold and windy for grilling. When we do have burgers, they aren't anything dazzling. But they could be...the potential is there. Really, the burger is a mere foundation, an open canvas for whatever you choose to pile on top. I've noticed lately that although I often have a variety of condiments piled high, there's so much more out there...cheeses to melt, veggies to slice, sauces to slather on. I vow to do better next time.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sausage and veggie grill mix

While my husband had the grill going the other night to make some chicken, I threw this into a foil pan and put it on the grill to have for lunch the following day. Easy and tasty. You can adjust the fresh veggies you add and the sausage is pre-cooked, and only needs warming, so works great as an add in.

Sausage and veggie grill mix

1 pound smoked sausage
2 bunches of broccoli
1 zucchini
1 cup sliced mushrooms
3 pats of butter
Oregano, basil and garlic salt to taste

Slice meat and veggies. Throw into a foil pan and sprinkle seasonings on top. Cut butter into pieces and lay on top. Cover tightly with foil. Place on preheated grill for about 15 - 20 minutes until veggies are soft.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Giant Turtle

So, over the years I've made many visits to various locations of the South Bend Chocolate Company. I've tried many different items. Everything is amazing...the chocolate covered raisins, the fudge, the chocolate covered Oreos, the chocolate mints, the chocolate bars. favorite? Turtles. Not just regular sized ones, but the Giant Turtle...milk chocolate, please. :)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Rockit Burger Bar Rocks!

So, Friday I spent my day at my favorite place on earth - the Friendly Confines. For those who aren't Cubs fans, that's what we call Wrigley Field. I've been a Cubs fan forever and always will be -- no matter how many years it takes them to get to another World Series. My sister is a season ticket holder, so I get to go to quite a few games. I'm telling you, that place is my sanctuary. Every trouble in the world melts away when I'm sitting in those upper deck seats looking down at that piece of heaven - a lush green landscape with four diamonds and ivy creeping up the wall before the iconic manual scoreboard. I have to admit that when I go to a more modern ballpark, I do appreciate the amenities (Wow!!! Girls don't have to wait in line for a bathroom at U.S. Cellular Field? And an manned elevator delivers you to the upper deck at Miller Park?!?!), but I certainly cherish the history and nostalgia of being at Wrigley, especially for a day game. It really takes something major, like the playoffs (how often does that happen - LOL!), to get me to go to a game when the lights are on. I'm an old school day game girl all the way! I loved looking over at the scoreboard and seeing that every other MLB game being played was at night. We were at the only daytime ballgame in the major leagues that day. It was fun that my brother and niece happened to also be there, so we stopped over to see them...and my sister-in-law and another niece were over watching from a rooftop.

So, back to Friday. Cubs played the Red Sox, which is a pretty rare occurrence, since it's only been in recent years that inter league games were introduced. It's my understanding that the Red Sox had only been to the Friendly Confines once before, in 2005. So, that made it fun. It was even more fun that the Cubs won. And one of my favorite athletes on earth was pitching - Ryan Dempster. I swear, he's got to be the nicest guy in baseball. He's super cool with the fans, never brushes off a kid asking for an autograph, is funny and has a wonderful charity that he runs. I was thrilled that he got two hits that day - including a triple that he scored on after DeJesus' single. He also pitched seven scoreless innings. Ok, I know this is a food blog...I'm getting to it, I swear.

The Cubs won 3 - 0. My oldest attended with me and ever since he was maybe 7-years-old, we've gone to hang out where the players exit the locker room so that he can try to score some autographs. He usually is lucky enough to get at least one. Once they clear things out inside the park, we often head out to the player's lot to try to get another autograph from a player heading to his car. It's a lot of waiting around, but I don't mind. It was a great day at the ballpark. Afterwards, there was a Wrigleyville Block Party going on so we went down to check it out. We also stopped in the Wrigleyville Firehouse across the street on Waveland, as this son - my oldest - usually likes to do. My husband is a firefighter and my son is a fire cadet, so he always like to take a walk inside and chat for a minute. There's always lots of visitors stopping in the station after the game. Our original plan was to get some lunch before the game, but that didn't happen. I can't complain about having a hot dog at the ballpark for lunch, though. How can you go to the ballpark and not have peanuts or a hot dog?

So, we decided to hang out in Wrigleyville following the game and have some dinner. Of all the times we've been to games, we haven't been to many of the restaurants in the area. We usually eat at the game or I have one of my little ones with me that I'm not to keen on taking into the pubs. But when we do eat in the neighborhood, our usual place to grab a bite is the Cubby Bear. The atmosphere is cool and the food is awesome. However, as we were in the firehouse, a couple was asking one of the firefighters for restaurant recommendations and I heard him mention Rockit Burger Bar. I've seen some awesome looking photos show up in my Facebook feed on the place, so I immediately wanted to head over there. I never even realized it was right there at the corner of Clark and Waveland. Despite it being a post-game Friday, we were seated within a couple minutes - a window seat that looked out down Waveland at the scoreboard. Perfect!

The Truffle Mushroom Burger
We sat and perused the menu of 16 burgers and sandwiches, salads, mac & cheese and pizzas. I so wanted to get one of the flat bread pizzas, which sounded incredible (like the spicy calabrese with salami, grilled green onions, shaved asiago, mozzarella and tomato basil sauce!!!) However, I just couldn't go to a place known for their burgers and order a flatbread pizza, as awesome as it sounded. That would be like going to a steakhouse and ordering a hot dog or a sushi bar and ordering steamed white rice. Well, ok, not quite...but my point is, I had to take full advantage of the burger options in front of me. The descriptions were all mouth watering. After a few minutes, I settled on the Locavore - "local beef raised in the Midwest, Goose Island beer battered onion rings, nordic creamery smoked cheese, neuske bacon aioli, pretzel bun, served with french fries." Before I could place my order, my son ordered it. I know I couldn't order the same thing -- because I'm not shy about bumming a sliver of a sandwich off of the family member I'm dining with so that I can sample it. I had to quickly make a switch and I picked a good one - the Truffle Mushroom Burger (black angus patty, gruyere, truffle creme fraiche, served with truffle fries.
The Locavore

Both were fantastic. The Locavore's smoked cheese was beyond delicious - and they loaded 3 or 4 slices of it on top of the absolutely prefect pretzel roll. Mine was equally incredible on a buttery toasted bun with the gooey gruyere oozing off the bun and onto the truffle fries, which blew me away. They had a hint of flavor from the truffle oil used and parsley. Whenever I dine out and have ordered fries, I usually don't even bother packing them up to go...or if I do, I pass them on to our pup. Fries are just something that rarely warm good and often aren't worth saving. However, I packed up every one of those truffle fries and heated them up and had them later in the evening. It's the first time in a long, long time that I ate leftover fries. Actually, I ate half the fries and just half the burger -- the portions are pretty huge. The other half of my Truffle Mushroom Burger and the remaining fries were warmed up for hubby - a major mushroom lover - and he gave it the thumbs up as well. I know I'll be back there on a future trip to Wrigleyville for a Cubs game and I CANNOT wait!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Happy Father's Day

As I was shopping the other day, I noticed this was on sale - an omelet maker. I always wondered how well these work. Yes, I can just make them in a skillet, but, was on sale for $11, why not give it a try? was almost Father's Day...and my husband likes eggs. LOL

I got home and didn't put it away immediately. When he saw it, I told him it was part of his Father's Day gift. "That's for me?" he asked. "Well, you like eggs, so I'm going to use it to make you some eggs." Yeah, he wasn't buying it. LOL But, I told him he could now consider us even for the year he bought me a kitchen faucet for Christmas. :)

Panini lunch again!

Just sharing another picture of a recent panini lunch - This one was on my favorite bread - Turano Italian bread. It was layers of ham, Gouda cheese, tomato slices and spicy mustard. Another point for the panini maker.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Sweet Baby Ray's Chicken Panini

My panini maker gets more of a workout than most of my other kitchen appliances - like the blender or the toaster. Some weeks I use it every single day. I've discovered so many different tastes that can be combined for a suitable panini. Made one of my favorites today - a barbecued chicken panini.

1/2 - 3/4 cup grilled, sliced chicken
1/4 cup Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil
1 slice Gouda cheese
1 large slice Turano Italian bread

In a bowl, mix the first four ingredients to coat the chicken. Cut bread slice in half and scoop chicken on to bread. If desired, add additional sauce. Top with a slice of Gouda cheese and place other half of bread on top. Press with panini maker until lightly browned and cheese is melted.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Strawberry glazed pie

After we left the field and paid for all our strawberries at Johnson's Farm Market, we were given a coupon for $5 of off $20 to use in the store. I went in thinking it was stocked with lots of fruit and veggies and thought I'd go looking for some rhubarb and other veggies. Well, unless there was more to the place than the room I was looking in, it was more garden center than vegetable stand with lots of gorgeous flowers, but not a lot in the way of veggies. I picked out some potatoes, grabbed some shortcakes, got a couple bottles of strawberry soda and still had to spend almost $10 more to use the coupon, so I grabbed some packs of glaze for making pies. I've never used a glaze before. I usually stir the fruit in a bowl with sugar and flour, add a top crust and bake. And I did do that - and made a strawberry/blueberry pie. Then I made two pies with a pack of this Concord Foods strawberry glaze. According to the instructions, one pack goes on one pie, but it seemed like way too much for one pie. I split it up and put it on two and it was plenty.

So, a bucket of these

Plus a package of this

Equaled this:

And everyone gave it a thumbs up.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Strawberry jam, take two

So, last week I posted on the strawberry jam I made that ended up being strawberry topping for our pancakes and ice cream. I gave it another try. This time, a little smaller batch -

2 cups strawberries, mashed with a potato masher
1 cup sugar
Juice of one large lemon

I started off same as last time and as the jam was cooking, I commented to my mother-in-law, who happened to stop by that there was so much juice. She suggested straining the strawberries, returning the juice to the pan and cooking it down a bit and then returning the strawberries to the pan. "You have to get rid of some of that syrup," she said. And I said, "Syrup? Yum! Why don't I just drain the liquid out and cook it down a little and it can be syrup for pancakes?" So, that's what I did. It was a two-for-one recipe. I ended up with a bowl of syrup that I'll put on pancakes for breakfast. I also got a jar of jam. Can't wait to try it out on some toast. Maybe for a snack tomorrow. 

Strawberry syrup.

Strawberry jam.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sun tea is the perfect summer beverage

My favorite summertime drink is iced tea, brewed in the sun in my awesome Pampered Chef pitcher. After going through several dispensers where the spicket wore out, I decided to simply use my favorite pitcher. It was clear and was perfect for the job. When it's done, all I have to do is add sugar and use the handy handle to mix it up. It's probably the most economical drink for summer, too...other than a simple glass of tap water. Four or five tea bags make a whole gallon. I experiment with all kind of tea flavors...lemon, raspberry, green tea. My favorite is Constant Comment with a hint of orange. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Fresh strawberry milkshake

My hubby is big on milkshakes. As soon as he sees bananas starting to brown on the counter, he pulls out the blender and makes a shake. After strawberry picking recently, he made up some strawberry shakes. Here's the rough recipe -- he doesn't measure much when he throws one together.

2 cups fresh strawberries
1 1/2 cup milk
4 large scoops vanilla ice cream
4 ice cubes
1/4 cup sugar

Throw it in the blender. Top with whipped cream and fresh strawberry. Makes 4 or 5 shakes.