Friday, November 30, 2012

HOSTESS goodies!

I have never been so happy to have been ignored. A few days ago when everyone was abuzz over the bankruptcy of Hostess, my sister, Jenny, sent me a text telling me she was at a Hostess Thrift Store and asking if I wanted her to pick up anything for me.

My mind quickly wandered to the Ho-Hos, Ding Dongs, Twinkies, Zingers and Suzy-Qs that made me as happy as could be when they showed up in my lunchbox as a child. But, snapping back to all the fat and sugar and empty calories that accompany them, I thanked her for the offer and declined and later kicked myself a little.

Then, my dad stopped by to drop off some Thanksgiving leftovers she'd sent and with it I found a big box of goodies. I was so happy that she didn't listen to me. I got to get a taste of one more of these! I LOVE the orange cupcakes!

And the chocolate Zingers.

And there were some of these, too...

And there were a few more things in the box! Aren't sisters wonderful???? Even when they don't listen to you. :) 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Some veggie eye candy

I make salads for lunch often, usually with whatever happens to be in the fridge - or if it's summer, whatever is ripe in the garden. While scanning my albums I noticed how many colorful salad photos I came across. So, just offering a little eye candy for the veggie lovers. :) Which one do you think is prettiest?

Kenny's Ribs

I usually pack two meals for my husband before he heads off for work - one for lunch and one for dinner for his long shifts at the firehouse. He doesn't order out very often and eats whatever I pack - which is sometimes a sandwich or soup or sometimes leftovers from the meal the night before.

A couple weeks ago he was working on a Saturday and I hadn't packed him anything, so while out running errands I stopped at Kenny's Ribs in Lansing to pick up something to drop off for him. I knew I couldn't go wrong with anything on the menu. I'd picked up carry-out from the location only once or twice, but everything was finger lickin' good and I knew my husband would like anything on the menu. So, I got him a 1/3 slab dinner with fries and bread for $7.99. As I waited, I was asked if I wanted a sample. I tried the greens, which were dynamite!!! I totally wanted to sample the macaroni and cheese, too, but I was able to control my greedy tummy and decided to wait until next time.

My husband is lucky his meal made it to him because it smelled sooooo good sitting next to me in the car!

You can also dine in as there are a few tables and I should have paid better attention to the sign about the buffet. That might be worth a try sometime. But, if you go, get some greens!!! And if you try the mac and cheese, let me know how it was. :)

Kenny's Ribs
16825 Torrence Ave.
Lansing, IL

Niche Restaurant

I posted a little bit about Niche after a lovely farm-to-table media dinner that I attended there with my husband and sister in September, but in cleaning up my photos I saw that there were a lot of shots from that dinner that I still need to share. And it's kind of nice to look back now that the seasons have progressed and see what was on our plates just a few short weeks ago that will be absent until summer returns. It makes you really appreciative of what unique flavors each season brings.

So, we started out our meal with these delicious rolls. 

We started off with basil infused wine (in the middle glass), which was incredibly refreshing.

The dinner was full of ingredients from the restaurant's Bull Run Farm. Just thinking about the freshness of the vegetables makes me long for it to be late summer again!

Specially selected wine was paired with each course, which we enjoyed quite a bit.

Chef Serena Purdue's creativity shines through with every menu offering.

The compressed watermelon was bursting with flavors of avocado, lime and cucumber.

This warm tomato tart was fabulous, served with arugula and a Parmesan crisp.

Next was the toasted zucchini bread with foie gras tourchon and fresh apricot with walnut oil, paired with 2008 Boony Doon "Vinferno."

This was my favorite part of the meal - Hasselmann Farm Pork served with spaghetti squash and a stuffed zucchini blossom. It was to die for. Really! The pork was unbelievably tender and a stuffed zucchini blossom??? It was more delicious than I ever could have imagined!

A second entree of grilled and smoked Hangar steak came next with a sage croquette and red and gold beets.

We were incredibly spoiled that night, finishing off with a 1908 Madeira Boal. Yes, that's 1908. Bottled before Titanic sank and during the year that my beloved Cubs last won a world series. :)

Oh, and can't forget the dark chocolate praline bar with hazelnut, a decadent treat that would make any discriminating chocoholic swoon.

Here's the Chicago Foodie Sisters, Carrie and Becky, enjoying the evening.

If you're still working up that list for Santa, a dinner out at Niche is something that should be on every foodie's wish list!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Seven Cheese Baked Macaroni

I love macaroni and cheese and when I recently got a package of goodies from Dofino Cheese, the first thing I thought of to make with it was some macaroni and cheese. I used some Smoked Cracked Pepporcorn Gouda when I made the cheese sauce for this and I used some Panko breadcrumbs on top, which added a nice crunch.

Here's what you need:

1 pound cooked macaroni
4 tbsp butter
4 tspb flour 
2 cups milk
finely ground sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3/4 cup shredded Italian cheese blend (mozzarella, parmesan, provolone and romano)
3/4 cup shredded taco cheese blend (colby and Monterray Jack wtih taco seasoning)
About two ounces thinly sliced Dofino Smoked Cracked Peppercorn Gouda
1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
Parsley for garnish

 So, this is a shot of my package from Dofino. I was so excited to get it. I am a major cheeseaholic!

Melt butter in large saucepan. Add flour and whisk until blended. Add salt and pepper and gradually add milk. Bring to a boil and stir constantly for two minutes until it thickens. Reduce heat and gradually add cheese, stirring frequently until all the cheese melts. Let simmer for about 3 minutes.

While it simmers, spray Pam on a casserole dish. Add macaroni to cheese sauce and stir until macaroni is well coated. Pour into casserole dish. Sprinkle parsley over top and then breadcrumbs. Bake in a 350 degrees oven for about 25 minutes.  Let sit for about 5 minutes before serving. Makes about 6 servings.
Although the basic cheddar sauce is always delicious, it's fun to switch it up now and then. There's just no such thing as a dish being too cheesy in my opinion! This addition of the peppercorn gouda added a little zing to the otherwise mild sauce. 

* I did receive complimentary product for the purpose of a review. I was not compensated for this post. Opinions are my own.

Copper Muggers know how to do pancakes

Here in Lansing, Illinois, where I live, we have this service club called the Lansing Copper Muggers. The group is made up of about 40 guys who work to raise funds for other organizations, school, clubs, sports teams in town by making pancakes at pancake breakfast fundraisers.

We're now well into pancake season as many weekends in the fall and winter you'll find a pancake breakfast being held on a Saturday morning. Most are held at the T.F. South High School cafeteria simply because they have adequate space for such an event, but sometimes they are held elsewhere, like at the one pictured below at the American Legion Post. They just had their annual American Legion Auxiliary Pancake Breakfast, with proceeds going to help our vets and military. 

These guys have gotten down this pancake making thing to a science, using their custom made pancake griddle that rotates and allows them to cook about two dozen pancakes at a time.

Thanks to this group, with members freely giving up their Saturday mornings to make pancakes and fry sausage, so many people benefit through the money raised. That's my friend, Chuck, pictured below, working the grill. He makes a mean pancake! 

The next opportunity to try out some of their pancakes will be on December 8 at T.F. South High School for the Lansing Chamber of Commerce's Breakfast with Santa. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at the Lansing Chamber Office at 3404 Lake Street.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Lucky China

While running some errands with my 13-year-old recently, we decided to stop for lunch. His absolute favorite meal is orange chicken with fried rice from Panda Express. But...we had been running errands the day before, too, and had stopped for Panda Express, so I wanted to try another place.

I pulled out my handy Golden Opportunities coupon book and told him to skim through and find something that sounded good. I love the Golden Opportunities coupon books and Entertainment Books for a few reasons. First, of course, is the discounts. Who doesn't love an offer to buy an entree and get one free? Secondly, the purchase of books usually helps out a local cause. And lastly, I love that by using the coupons I am introduced to new restaurants I've never been to and some I may not have ever heard of.

I was not surprised when the two places he suggested served Chinese food. So, we settled on Lucky China in Dyer, which happened to be right on our way home. He ordered orange chicken and declared that it was way better than what he usually gets from Panda Express. He loved the fried rice.

The monster-sized egg rolls were wonderful.

I opted for sweet and sour chicken. The portions were huge. There was a large bowl of sauce on the side. I was happy with everything. My order was just they way I like it. I also sampled my son's orange chicken. I love orange chicken, but am sometimes hesitant to order it because I never know how spicy it's going to be. This time is was just the right amount of heat -- not too much. It was enough to enhance the flavor, but not overpower it.

The coupon I had from my book was for 25% off of your bill. It was the in Northwest Indiana edition of the Golden Opportunities book.

We happened to just miss the cut-off for lunch pricing, which ended at 3 p.m. (We got there about 3:20.) However, the prices were reasonable and well worth the large servings we got. If you're in the mood for Chinese and in the Northwest Indiana area, try them out. They do carry-out and have a small dining room with a half-dozen or so tables.

Lucky China
1135 Joliet Street
Dyer, IN

Monday, November 26, 2012

Everest adds Scottish grouse to holiday menu

Wild game is found often on the menu at fine dining establishments. However, there's one delicacy that comes from Scotland that you're not likely to see on menus in Chicago - grouse. The rich and flavorful delicacy is one of the most sought-after wild game birds in the world and for a limited time, you'll find it on the menu at Everest Restaurant in Chicago. Served up by Chef Joho, who normally is dedicated to using locally sourced ingredient, the Scottish grouse is an exception to his rule.

Each year, luxury restaurants and hotels in Scotland vie for the opportunity to add the rare wild bird to its menu and only a limited number are shipped overseas, which makes Scottish grouse one of the most rare and expensive delicacies you'll find this holiday season.

Chef Joho's dish offering is Crepinette of Wild Grouse roasted in Alsace Cabbage. To try Scottish grouse before it disappears from the menu, call for reservations at 312-663-8930 or visit

Hobbit-themed menu debuts at Denny's

If you're eagerly anticipating the December 14 release of the Hobbit, you might want to stop by your local Denny's to get a taste of the new movie, literally. Denny's has introduced an array of Hobbit-inspired meals to their menu for a limited time in celebration of the movie. With each meal comes a trading card. There are 10 different character cards to collect.

The Denny’s Facebook page and website are offering film-inspired games and activities and movie content is available by scanning one of four QR codes on Denny’s placemats in-restaurant, including access to “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” exclusive video footage and a behind-the-scenes look at Denny’s National TV spot.

Here's what's on the menu:

·         Build Your Own Hobbit Slam®: Denny’s most famous dish has been given a Middle-earth makeover with three tasty new additions with holiday flavors, including Lemon Poppy seed Cake French Toast, Shire Sausage and Pumpkin Patch Pancakes. 
·         Hobbit Hole breakfast: This dish will get diners ready for any adventure; two eggs fried into the center of grilled cheddar bun halves served with two slices of bacon, crispy hash browns and topped with cheddar cheese and more bacon.
·         The Shire Sausage Skillet: Perfect for breakfast, lunch, dinner or even Elevenses. A savory Shire sausage is served with seasoned red-skinned potatoes, sautéed mushrooms, fire-roasted peppers and onions on a sizzling skillet, topped with cheddar cheese and two eggs.
·         Frodo’s Pot Roast Skillet: Offering pure comfort with every bite, this sizzling skillet features slow-cooked pot roast, herb-roasted carrots, celery, mushrooms, onions and broccoli, served with seasoned red-skinned potatoes.
·         The Ring Burger: Dwarves and Hobbits won’t be the only ones eager to dig into this mighty dish. A hand-pressed burger is topped with pepper jack cheese, bacon, sautéed mushrooms and mayo on a grilled cheddar cheese bun, crowned with three crispy onion rings and served with a side of wavy-cut French fries.
·         Gandalf’s Gobble Melt: For an interesting twist on a holiday favorite, try this wizardry creation; tender sliced turkey breast and savory stuffing topped with melted Swiss cheese and placed on grilled potato bread with cranberry honey mustard spread.
·         Dwarves Turkey and Dressing Dinner: Even Dwarves and Hobbits need a traditional holiday dinner; featuring tender sliced turkey breast, savory stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce served with your choice of two sides and dinner bread.

And for dessert...

·         Lonely Mountain Treasure: Delicious Lemon Poppy seed Cake French Toast cut into nine squares and served with a side of cream cheese icing for dipping. Perfect for sharing on your journey.
·         Radagast’s Red Velvet Pancake Puppies: These festive favorites feature six bite-sized red velvet Pancake Puppies®, made with white chocolate chips, sprinkled with powdered sugar and served with a side of cream cheese icing for dipping.
·         Lone-Lands Campfire Cookie Milk Shake: Traveling through the Lone-Lands over Christmas? Be sure to bring this yummy milk shake along. Thick, hand-dipped vanilla milk shake mixed with s’mores cookie pieces and topped with a dollop of whipped cream.
·         Bilbo’s Berry Smoothie: Made with a delicious blend of raspberries, blueberries, pomegranate and nonfat yogurt, it’s a refreshing treat after a big adventure.
·         Hobbit Harvest Pies: Dwarves and diners looking for a budget-friendly bite can enjoy a slice of holiday flavor with pecan or pumpkin pie for only $2 from Denny’s 2,4,6,8 value menu.

The Hershey Store

So, last week on a trip to Chicago we did a little shopping. I practically left the city in a sugar coma after having some gelato at the John Hancock Observatory, trying Frango Mints at Macy's and bringing home a big cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory.

While walking from the car, we passed a Ghirardelli, which I didn't go inside because I knew I wouldn't be able to resist the goodies. The kids, however, saw the Hershey's store and insisted we check it out. 

The store pretty much has the basic Hershey candies that you can find in any grocery store, but they also have bigger versions that you won't find elsewhere, like this 5 pound Hershey bar. Holy cow!!! It would take me months to eat the whole thing.

My middle guy wanted to get these - One whole pound of peanut butter cups. 

As we exited, the horse buggies were parked outside the Water Tower. I told the boys that when their dad proposed to me at a downtown restaurant, we went for a buggy ride afterwards. :)