Friday, May 31, 2013

Izze Sparkling Blackberry Juice

On a recent visit to Michigan, hubby and I stopped in Froehliche's in Three Oaks. We had plans for lunch, but wouldn't be eating for a couple hours, so we thought we'd get a little bite while we were there. Hubby got coffee. I'm not a coffee drinker and wasn't in the mood for tea, so I perused the cooler and came across this.

I love sparking drinks -- I could drink a full bottle of sparkling grape juice or cider all by myself. This was actually a nice size, though. I often don't drink a full can of a 12-ounce soft drink. This 8-ounce can was perfect. And it was delicious.

I'll definitely be on the lookout for it on shopping trips in the future.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Howard & Sons Ultimate Seasoning

Growing up, my mom didn't seem to use a lot of spices. Most of her dishes simply used salt and pepper. She'd sprinkle paprika on deviled eggs, Lawry's seasoning salt on hamburgers and she used dried onions or parsley in her potato boiled potatoes, but that was about it.

Now that I'm grown up and cooking on my own, I love to use spices to enhance the flavors of different dishes. I also love collecting different seasoning blends. This one from Howard & Sons, a meat market in Munster, Indiana is my favorite. It is great on almost any meat. I put it on steaks, chicken and pork and I use it often to season potatoes or other vegetables.

If you happen to be in that area of the Hoosier State, stop by there and pick up a container. I think it's about $1. And tell them Chicago Foodie Sisters sent you.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Guest post from Germany - Zucchini and Feta Muffins

Today we have a guest post all the way from Germany. Germany holds a special place in my heart as the birthplace of my father-in-law who passed away last week. Kathrin is sharing a zucchini and feta muffin recipe. Thanks to Kathrin for sharing!

Hey there readers of the Chicago Foodie Sisters Blog!
I am Kathrin, a 26 year old german girl that loves cooking, baking and taking pictures of all of it :) On my blog Ginger, Lemon & Spice ( I write about things I liked that came out of my kitchen from all over the world! I like experimenting and travelling to different countries a lot. As I am very passionate it is not rare that I loose my heart to those places and people and indulge in memories at home and try to recreate the dishes I have eaten. Also it is important to me to get more and more people back 'to the roots' and to encourage them to cook and bake by their own and show that this is not as difficult to manage as they (maybe) thought! 
Most of the time it makes almost no difference on how long it takes to prepare a processed meal in comparison to one self cooked. But the feeling of having done it on ones own and the great taste will be fulfilling :) And that's a great feeling!!
The recipe I have for you today is one for Zucchini & Feta Muffins. They are savory muffins filled with zucchini, corn, feta & walnuts and taste amazing! They are quick and easy to prepare and they are great to take with you as a snack to school, work or wherever you need to go. Try them yourselves!

Zucchini & Feta Muffins

2 eggs
80ml (1/3 cup) oil (rapeseed or sunflower)
300ml (1 1/4 cup) buttermilk
300g (2 1/2 cups) flour (I used half white/whole wheat)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
100g corn* (canned or frozen)
100g zucchini*, finely grated
100g chopped walnuts*
150g feta* in small cubes

* I am sorry I can't tell how much of those ingredients you need in cups. Corn, walnuts and feta it is approximately 1 big handful of each and zucchini about 3/4 of a smaller one.

1. Grease a muffin tin and put in muffin paper cups if you want. Preheat oven to 180°C (350 °F).
2. In a bowl mix eggs, oil and buttermilk well. Add flour, salt and baking powder on top and distribute the dry ingredients a little with a spoon. Then mix wet and dry ingredients slowly until just incorporated. 
3. Add corn, zucchini and walnuts. Then fold in feta carefully with a tablespoon.
4. You can use the spoon now to transfer the batter into the muffin cups! You can make the cups pretty full, at least in my case the muffins just rose but did not spill and sank back when cooling!
5. Back the muffins for 25-30 minutes. Check with a wooden skewer! 
Enjoy!! :)


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Quinoa Pilaf

I'm always scanning the recipes on packages. I rarely end up making them, but I always like to look them over and get ideas. This time I found a recipe on a package and had to try it out. I had recently had a frozen quinoa pilaf from Trader Joe's that I liked. So, I had a package of quinoa in my pantry and when I saw the pilaf recipe on the package, I figured I'd give it a try. It was incredibly easy and had great flavor. One of my boys really enjoyed it, having three servings. I served it up with some honey mustard glazed salmon and a salad.

Quinoa is a unique grain with the closest description perhaps being a combination of rice and cous cous. It's light and fluffy when cooked and soaks up the flavor of whatever you're blending into it. I found it in the rice section of my grocery store. After my first try, I contacted Nature's Earthly Choice and they were kind enough to send some samples for me to try and blog about. So, I'm finally getting around to it and I look forward to trying the other products they sent.

So, back to the pilaf.

1 tbsp vegetable oil (I used extra virgin olive oil)
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 carrots, chopped (I julienned a few baby carrots and then cut then smaller)
1 cup quinoa
2 cups vegetable broth (I used chicken broth)
2/3 cup chopped walnuts (I omitted these - not a lot of nut fans in my house and I didn't have any on hand)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Heat oil in pan and add onion. Cook for 5 minutes or until translucent. Add carrot and cook three minutes more. Stir in quinoa and broth, bringing to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook 15 to 20 minutes or until quinoa is tender and fluffy. In a bowl, toss quinoa with walnuts and parsley. Serve hot or at room temperature.

* I did receive complimentary product for the purpose of a review. Opinions are my own.

Produce Depot's new St. John location

Produce Depot opened in Dyer in 2009. It's not really far from my home, but I don't head that direction on a regular basis, so I've only been in the store a handful of times. However, I was in love the first time I stepped inside. There's a walk in cooler full of fresh herbs and greens. And bin after bin of fresh produce, much of it organic.

In March a new location opened in St. John and I popped in to check it out. It's at least double the size of the original location with all the same quality fruits and veggies and more. There's an even bigger walk-in cooler, a coffee counter and a sandwich counter. Upstairs, I was able to get a tour of the bakery since I was there to scope things out for a Foods story I was writing for a local newspaper. Wow...what a set-up...and they're busy all day long baking breads and muffins and potato salad and cole slaw and soup. All of the sandwiches served at the counter use the bread made there onsite every day.

This one is even further from me than the Dyer location, so I probably won't make it there too often (it's about a half-hour away), happens to be just down the street from our pediatrician's office, so when the kids go to the doctor for check-ups, we'll have to stop in for apples to keep the doctor away and lots of other fresh goodies.

Produce Depot
8126 Wicker Avenue
St. John, Indiana
Find Produce Depot on Facebook

Monday, May 27, 2013

Very green salad

I love salad and there are so many green veggies that can go into them other than lettuce. I loaded quite a few into this.

1 cup arugula
1 cup chopped spinach
1/2 - 1 cup broccoli, chopped
1/4 - 1/2 green pepper, diced
Cucumber, sliced longways and more small slices
About a dozen green grapes
(and I had planned on also adding avocado, but realized the one I was going to use had been sitting on the counter too long.)
Handful of pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
A squirt of fresh lime juice

And the non green items:

A handful of grape tomatoes

Drizzle with poppyseed dressing

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Panera's Egg, Bacon and Asiago Breakfast Sandwich

Panera is one of my favorite eateries. I seriously could eat there every day of my life and never get sick of it. Between their hearty salads, savory sandwiches and delicious soups, I don't think I'd ever tire of the menu offerings. I also love the bagels and muffins that I've picked up on occasion.

However, I'd never had a breakfast sandwich there until recently. I am not a big breakfast eater and there's not one real close by that I pass in my normal course of daily travel. But, when I was running some errands one day after a stressful morning, I decided I'd get something in my stomach. I pulled in to Panera and tried out one of their egg, bacon and asiago cheese sandwiches.

It was pretty much a breakfast panini - the bagel grilled to perfection. And asiago is a a flavor I just love -- the sharpness of it  is something I'm just crazy about. At $4, plus another $1.59 for my small serving of organic chocolate milk, it's a little more than I like to spend on breakfast if I'm running errands and decide to stop. But, as far as taste, it is miles ahead of a $1 sausage biscuit from the golden arches.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Blueberry banana smoothie

This is a nice refreshing drink that helped use up some of the blueberries still in the freezer from our trip last summer.

1 cup vanilla yogurt
1 cup frozen blueberries
5 ice cubes
1 banana

Throw it in the blender of ice crush setting for about 15 seconds, then to the blend setting for about 20 seconds. Yum!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Grilled quick potatoes

Meat and potatoes just go so well together. But, many variations of potato dishes are ones that are boiled or fried or baked. Some just don't translate well to grill preparation.

My husband was making a roast on the grill recently and I thought baked potatoes would go well with it. But, I didn't want to wait or the oven to preheat and then an hour to bake them or for them to bake on the grill.

So, I washed them, poked them with a fork and put them in the microwave for about 8 minutes. When they came out, I sliced each in half then took them out to the grill, where I brushed them with olive oil and sprinkled them with seasoning. We have a meat market nearby called Howard's Meats and they make their own "Ultimate Seasoning" that I like to use on everything and it's great for potatoes.  So, after they were brushed and sprinkled, they went on the grill for a few minutes, which was just enough to get a lightly crunchy coating. It was perfect and took a fraction of the time it would have to make traditional baked potatoes in the oven or on the grill.

Cheesy chicken green salad

Okay, I apologize if you're getting sick of seeing me post salads. I eat them so often and often they aren't anything fancy. But, I figured I'll photograph them when I can and share them just to perhaps pass on a few ideas or tips to other salad lovers.

This one includes:

About 3/4 cup of fresh spinach
Finely chopped broccoli
Cucumber slices
A handful of cooked, diced chicken breast (I bought this from Schwan's and thawed it out to use in salads.)
Small chunks of sharp cheddar cheese
Celery salt

The celery salt definitely makes a difference. I almost always season my cucumbers with celery salt, a little trick I learned when working at my brother-in-law's hot dog stand in college. Celery salt always went on top of a Chicago Dog -- you know, mustard (no ketchup!!!), relish, onion, tomato, cucumber, sport peppers and last, but not least, a dash of celery salt on top off all those goodies on a poppy seed bun and a steamed dog. It really enhances the flavor of the cukes! Try it!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Beggar's Pizza

Many years ago when I worked in the human resources office of a school district, we'd often order pizza for lunch from the original location in Blue Island. There are now several more locations, including one close to my home in Lansing.

As far as I'm concerned, it's the best location because it has a very cool pipe organ and it is played live two nights a week. The building was once a movie theatre, so it has an interesting layout with different tiers of seating and a big stage in the center with the massive organ as a centerpiece. If you've never been there to see it played, do yourself a favor and plan a visit when the organist is there. It's so fun listening to everything from Disney tunes to rock medleys played while you eat.

The food is great - it's still my favorite pizza. They really load on the cheese and their sausage is the best! I've also had lots of other menu items over the years, from salads to pasta to appetizers to chicken entrees. I've ordered the food for catered parties at home and I've held events in their party room.

They've also been named a Top 100 Pizza company in the U.S.A. - quite a distinction!

Beggar's Pizza
3524 Ridge Road
Lansing, IL

Other locations include Blue Island, Bourbonnais, Richton Park, Orland Park, New Lenox, Oak Forest and Merrionette Park, Harvey, Chicago, Plainfield, Bourbonnais and Dyer and Crown Point in Indiana. 

Easy Green Enchiladas

We've been cooking on the grill quite a bit lately and I'm always trying to think of new ways to use the grill and dishes that would traditionally go in the oven, but can be adapted to grill recipes.

I pulled out a glass pyrex dish, which would work fine on the grill on low heat for a short time. And I looked a the ingredients I had in the fridge and pantry to see what I could pull together.

And I pulled out the following:

6 large flour tortillas
About 1 1/2 cups of cooked, diced chicken (I used some that I'd purchased frozen from the Schwan's truck. I've also ordered it often from Market Day. Be sure to thaw before use if you are using frozen chicken.)
2 ounces cheddar cheese
Zumba hot seasoning (No idea where this came from. It was in a prize basket I got when I won "Most Unusual" in a chili contest last fall. As a substitute you could use cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes if you want some heat.)
1 jar salsa verde
About a 1/2 cup of shredded Swiss and Gruyere blend (I picked this up at Trader Joe's)
Handful of green onion, chopped
Fresh cilantro

First I pop the tortillas in the microwave for about 15 second to help make them a little more flexible and keeping them from breaking as they bend. Next I sliced up the cheddar I had on hand and placed pieces in the middle of the shell, topping them with chicken.

Sprinkle on paprika and if desired Zumba Hot seasoning and roll. Place in glass dish and pour salsa verde over top. Add shredded cheese.

Place on hot grill for about 15 mintutes or until cheese is melted. Garnish with green onion and cilantro.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Veggie, cheese and egg skillet

Recently, I posted about a yummy vegetable skillet  that I'd made for a dinner side dish. It included Yukon gold, baby red and purple potatoes along with three colors of peppers, onions, tomatoes and broccoli with some olive oil and spices.

It's one of those dishes that tastes even better a day or two later. And it was a couple days later when I decided I'd make another skillet recipe and use the lefotovers from the previous skillet. First I scrambled some eggs and removed from pan. Then, in went a little butter on the bottom of the pan and the leftovers from the veggie skillet. A few minutes later after the veggies were heated, I threw some shredded swiss and gruyere on top, covered it and let it melt. Then I transferred it to this cute dish and plopped some eggs on top and sprinkled a little freshly ground pepper on the eggs. was for sure even better the second time around!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Froehlich's Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

Rhubarb reminds me of two things.

1) The rhubarb pies my mom would make after we picked rhubarb from the back yard.
2) My sweet next door neighbor, Delma, who used to also pick rhubarb out of her back yard and make strawberry rhubarb bars.

I, myself, have never ever made anything with rhubarb. But just the mention of it brings back fond memories. So, when I was in Froehlich's in Three Oaks, Michigan recently and I saw strawberry rhubarb jam on the shelf, I knew I had to try it out.

I tried it out with some 12-grain toast and it was fantastic...very sweet, so a little bit goes a long way. For example, the amount pictured was way too much. You just need a little smear and it is plenty. I've heard that Froehlich's is known for having outstanding jellies and I was told recently that the jellies and jam can be found at the farmer's market in Chesterton. I know that if I come across them, I will definitely be buying another jar.

Monday, May 20, 2013

South Bend Chocolate Company and Cafe: Valparaiso, Indiana

I have been out in Valparaiso, Indiana several times in the last year for work and fun. Nearly every time I'm in that area, I make a stop at the South Bend Chocolate Company. I usually pick up some candy or fudge. All their sweets are amazing.

On my last visit I stopped in at lunchtime and got a rueben sandwich and soup and realized that it's a place worth stopping not just for sweets.

So, when my son had a recent soccer game at a park in Valparaiso, I stopped for a sandwich. This time I got chicken salad with some cheddar cheese on it. It was the best chicken salad sandwich I've ever had. It came with a side of chips and some potato salad.

My son opted for something sweet - a scoop of mint chocolate chip ice cream. And see that big malted milk ball on top? He gave that to me. If we weren't already driving and a mile away by then, I would have gone right back in for a pound of them. I can't say I didn't consider turning the car around and going back. But I know what I'll be getting on my next visit.

Duncan Hines Classic Carrot Cake Mix

My dad is a fan of carrot cake. So, I like to make it for him once in a while. But, I've admitted before that most of the baked goods I make come from a box or at least start with a box and then I add extra ingredients to make them taste more homemade. I found a carrot cake mix that doesn't need any extras at all. My dad stopped over one day to bring me this mix he'd seen at the grocery store and to ask me if I'd make it for him.

In the box is an envelope of carrots and raisins that you soak in hot water for five minutes before adding to the dry mix. What a difference it makes. It comes out so moist and so good, you can totally pass it off for a slaved-in-my-kitchen-for-hours-kind-of-homemade. :)

Somehow I didn't get a pic after it was done cooking, but I can assure you that it was wonderful. Dad prefers it without any frosting and it's perfect just like that!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

chicken and veggie lunchtime salad

I love to go out to eat for lunch and end up eating out once a week at least, sometimes more if I have work meetings or a lunch date with a friends. When at home, I like to do salads or sandwiches for lunch.

When I make chicken in the crock pot or on the grill, I try to make enough so that there is leftover chicken breast to go on salad the next day. Often there aren't leftovers. However, I also try to keep in the freezer a product I like for salads. It's cooked and diced chicken breast meat from Market Day. It come two bags to a box. Just thaw and it's salad ready.

About a cup of spinach
1 diced roma tomato
handful of baby carrots
1 mini cucumber
1/2 cup of cooked and diced Market Day chicken breast
Tablespoon of gorgonzola cheese
Ranch dressing

Chocolate covered banana bites

I found this yummy little treat that I'm in love with. FROZEN BANANA BITES! I picked them up at Trader Joe's.

I love frozen bananas. This is perfect because when you want just a bite or two of something sweet, this totally does the trick.

I plan to make these soon as they'll be a great summer treat. Should be able to duplicate it easily with some bananas, melted chocolate and wax paper.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Strawberry pineapple lemonade

Just another recent lemonade experiment.

One cup of lemonade (I made mine from frozen concentrate)
3 ripe strawberries
2 tablespoons pineapple tidbits
2 tablespoons pineapple juice

Throw the fruit and pineapple juice in the blender. Blend until it's a lightly chunky consistency. Slowly pour into cup of lemonade, which will give a nice layered appearance. Garnish with pineapple chunks or strawberries.

Early Bird Food Truck

Our town has this annual parade called the Good Neighbor Day Parade. It is a really fun time when everyone is out and about - walking in the parade, driving in the parade, marching and playing music in the parade, sitting atop a float in the parade or watching the parade.

This year there was a new food truck out for its first day of business at the parade. I'd been at a meeting earlier in the week where there was mention of a food truck that would be there selling vegetables. I was envisioning salads and fresh fruits and veggies. I guess the grapevine isn't real reliable. It turned out that Early Bird is a vegan and vegetarian food truck with mostly breakfast offerings, such as muffins and waffles...which makes sense with a name like "Early Bird." There was more variety than I expected. Besides waffles and muffins, there were also vegan hot dogs, soup, brownies and juice.

The truck can be found on Sundays at the Munster Farmer's Market and from glancing at the Facebook page, it appears that they will also be at the Highland Farmer's Market on Sundays and at the Schererville Farmer's Market on Thursdays.

I ordered a chocolate chip waffle for my husband, which I didn't try, but which looked fantastic. Pop in to see them if you're at one of the Northwest Indiana Farmer's Markets this spring and summer!