Saturday, November 30, 2013

Feasting time

The Thanksgiving family feast is something I look forward to all year. Like most families, we have some dishes that have to be on the table for it to feel complete. Everyone has their favorite item.

So, here's what's on the plate, going clockwise, starting at the cornbread.

1. Cheesy cornbread - this is made by my sister-in-law. I'll try to get the recipe from her to post later, but it is pretty simple.

2) Honey baked ham.

3) Steamed broccoli with shredded cheddar on top.

4) Sweet corn

5) Mashed potatoes with gravy.

6) Turkey with gravy.

7) Stuffing that I made this year. Not as good as Mom's, but still good.

8) Green bean casserole.

9) Noodles and gravy. This is a favorite of mine. I don't know why I don't make it other times of the year. It's simply Reams brand frozen egg noodles. Rather than boiling in water, I boil in chicken broth. Then when it's done, add gravy and stir it all together. Then a little more gravy on top. :)

10) Macaroni and cheese. For the past several years I've done a mac and cheese casserole, but since mom and dad don't really cook anymore, Dad usually offers to stop at Cracker Barrel and pick up a pan of mac and cheese, which is totally fine with me. Honestly, theirs is better than mine. :)

Additional items that we had that aren't on this plate are spinach salad with poppyseed dressing, Hawiian salad, dinner rolls, sweet potatoes and two kinds of cranberry sauce and another batch of cornbread.

Before dinner, there were munchies -- beer bread with spinach dip, bagel chips and garlic dip, Chex mix, a couple bowls of nuts, chili cheese dip and tortilla chips, summer sausage, cheese and crackers, tomato/mozzarella/basil bites.

Beverages were egg nog, apple cider, sparkling cider, pop, wine and beer.

Desserts were pumpkin pie, apple pie, plain cheesecake (with topping to add - M & M's and chocolate syrup), cherry cheesecake, peppermint ice cream and brownies.

I feel like I need to unbutton my pants recalling it all. What was your favorite goodie from your Thanksgiving meal?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

NINJA Ultima Blender

Ninja  hosted a live tasting at Yolk Chicago in River North.
The evening featured the new NINJA Ultima Blender, a dual stage blending technology with variable speed. I sampled the Super Ninja 9- one step up from v8 . The ninja processed the recipe below in 2 minutes. The best part is it is built with a smoothie cup for those on the go! That is my favorite feature about the blender.

Super Ninja 9
Serves 4, prep time 5 minutes

2 tomatoes
1 cucumber, peeled and quartered
1 stalk of celery, cut into thirds
1 Granny Smith apple, quartered, unpeeled and uncorked
1 small carrot, peeled and cut in half
1 inch piece of red onion
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded
1/4 beet, peeled
1/2 cup red cabbage, shredded
1 1/2 cups ice
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt

1. Place the Top Blades in the Ninja Ultima Pitcher and add all of the ingredients in order listed.
2. PULSE 3 times. Select speed 10 an flip the switch to START: Blend for 45 seconds.

The Super ninja recipes for the fall party ideas are below, that includes a sweet red pepper spread and a few smoothie recipes for those NINJA lovers out there.

Sweet Red Pepper Spread
Prep Time 15 minutes and serves 12

2 15 Ounce cans garbanzo beans, drained
2-4 ounce jars roasted red peppers drained,reserving 1 talbespoon to thin if desired
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon hot Hungarian paprika
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

In your ninja this takes 30 seconds! Talk about a fabulous dip with fabulous prep time!

Just in time for thanksgiving is the Pumpkin Pie Smoothie and for those chocolate lovers the Chocolate Pecan pie Smoothie

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie
4 8- ounces per serving

16 oz.  lite silken tofu
3 tablespoons Golden Syrup  or brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin pie mix
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
Pinch nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon of salt
2 cups of ice

1/2 cup gingersnap cookie crumbs to garnish.

Chocolate Pecan Pie Smoothie
4 8-ounce servings

1 cup pecans
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 Tablespoons Golden Syrup or agave
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/12 cups unsweetened almond milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 1/2 cups of ice

A new addition was the Ninja Cooking system. This system is introducing cooking easier, healthier and better. Fast one pot meal cooking featuring homemade meals in less than 30 minutes. Steam roasting and baking, faster and healthier with delicious results and SEARious Slow Cooking, with Sear/Slow cooking all in one- easy and flavorful. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Seasons 52 roasted potato side

One of my very favorite eateries is Seasons 52, which has several Chicago area locations, including the recent downtown spot. They have awesome seafood, amazing appetizers and a wine selection that will blow you away.

The one downfall of Seasons 52 is that I have such trouble deciding what to order because everything is just so so good. On a summer visit, I had placed my order and then as the waiter was walking away, I stopped him and told him I also had to try the roasted potato side, which had some savory dipping sauces. He was accommodating and brought this big helping along with my meal. It was fantastic!!! Totally worth the extra calories!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Trader Joe's Speculoos Cookie Spread Candy Bar

It was just a few months ago that I was first introduced to Trader Joe's. Actually, I think I've only been there 3, maybe 4 times now. However, I fell in love instantly and really love the place. My first taste of Trader Joe's was last fall when I took part in a Foodie Pen Pal program where you send a package of goodies to someone and an entirely different person sends you some goodies. My pen pal sent me some Speculoos Cookie Butter and some pretzel rods to dip in it. Wow! It was soooo tasty. The next time I went to my sister's house, I stopped at the location near her home and went on a shopping spree and of course, I bought another jar of cookie butter.

That sis has since moved to Arizona, so I don't get out that way to visit the Batavia location. However, I have been to visit Becky several times in the last couple weeks to visit with her and her new baby and I was pretty certain there was a TJ in her area. I looked it up and found that there is one just 12 minutes down the road in Naperville. So, on my last visit to see her, I also visited TJ. I always grab a bit of yummy candy near the checkout and when I saw this I had to get some. I really liked it -- like a classier version of a peanut butter cup and I love those biscuit chunks that are in it. If you like peanut butter and chocolate combined - give this treat a try!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Jaali Bean brings you easy Indian comfort food

The folks at Jaali Bean send me some of the new products they are offering. The company specializes in Indian comfort food and since I haven't had Indian food very often, I was excited to give it a try. One reason I shy away from Indian food is because I usually don't tolerate really spicy foods well. I found that although this dish of Lentil and Brown Rice with Cardamom and Current was on the spicy side, it wasn't overwhelming. It made a nice side dish to the chicken I had prepared for dinner that night. In fact on night two, the remaining chicken was cut up and put right into the dish and it made for a hearty lunch.

The meals serve four and take less than 30 minutes to prepare - less than it would take to order and pick up Indian carry-out. So, if Indian food is your thing, you may want to try out preparing your own easy Indian dishes at home. And if, like me, you haven't been exposed to much Indian cuisine, it's a good way to get an introduction to some classic Indian dishes. For more information on Jaali Bean products, visit

Friday, November 22, 2013

Timbrook Kitchens offering their pies in Munster

I'm excited! A friend posted on Facebook this week that she had stopped at Timbrook Kitchens in Munster and along with that post was a photo of some yummy looking S'more Pies. I instantly recognized the name as I had seen Timbrook Kitchens several times over the summer and into early Autumn at the European Market in Chesterton and the Farmer's Market in Munster. After just looking a few times, I had to give them a try. The chicken artichoke pie was phenomenal! I can't wait to sink my teeth into some more of their savory pies and their sweet treats.

According to my friend, they are located just across the street from Strack and Van 'Til in Munster. I'm looking forward to paying them a visit this week and I'll be back with a report on what I found!

The many flavors of Moon Pies

Moon pies. It's just one of those treats that make you happy (if you can keep yourself from looking at the nutrition label, that is.) My kids are fans and so once in a while if I am in Cracker Barrel, I grab a few for them.

I also spotten a huge display of them when we made a stop at Bass Pro Shop in Portage. I never knew there were so many flavors. So, I thought we would sample a few. Besides the original flavor, we tried out peanut butter, mint, banana and orange.

How can you go wrong with chocolate? The peanut butter and mint varieties had a perfect enhancement of flavor. I wasn't a big fan of the banana or orange - they just tasted a little too artificial to me. Truly, if I had to pick, I'd grab the original, but I enjoyed sampling the new flavors, too.

Loaded egg scramble

I have been on quite an egg kick lately. I'm not much of a breakfast person, but when I do eat breakfast, I want it to be something hot - usually eggs. I've been making them quite often lately and I always make a big pan so that there are leftovers for the next day or so. The more additions the better and I love to load them up with veggies.

Here's what went into this batch:

About 1 1/2 cups of fresh spinach, wilted in olive oil. Remove from pan.

Add more olive oil to pan and sauté green and yellow pepper, mushroom, onion, tomato. Return spinach to pan after veggies are soft. I also threw in some diced potatoes I'd made the night before and

Scramble 8 or 9 eggs, add a couple tablespoons of water, real bacon bits and gobs of Trader Joe's Quattro Formaggio - a shredded blend of Asiago, Fontina, Parmesan and Mild Provolone that melts beautifully.

Sprinkle with Trader Joe's Everyday Seasoning. And add to pan. Cook on medium until eggs are done throughout. It's also fabulous the next day to heat up and throw between a couple slices of toast.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Vora Chicago

simple. healthy. delicious

Vora Chicago hosted their grand opening party on Friday, November 15th with a tasting from sushi to Taiwanese Dim Sum. Located in the trendy Gold Coast, Vora is at 1028 N Clark Street. The atmosphere of the restaurant is hip and trendy but very inviting. You can sit in the main dining room or below at the sushi bar.

We started off with sake and some tasty ahi poke tuna with avocado, and pickled onion served on lotus root chips with mango salsa. This was paired with oyster shooters below, complete with a quail egg and chili sauce.

Lets talk sushi. The sushi was spicy and fresh, and the grand opening party featuring the lobster dynamite rolls. This roll had lobster salad, cucumber topped with scallops, spicy mayo, and unagi sauce. There was also a veggie roll,  the Vora veggie maki. This roll included asparagus, cucumber, and daikon sprouts

The full platter below was complete with Taiwanese Dim Sum. Xia Long Bao with pork, veggie Sui Mai, and a crispy shrimp roll. 

This meal could not be complete without a full list of sake to wash it all down with. 

Simple, check. Healthy, check. Delicious check. Vora is a great addition to the neighborhood.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

mk The Restaurant and Olives from Spain

Chef Michael Kornick
mk The Restaurant
Chef Michael Kornick of mk The Restaurant, Chicago hosted an elegant lunch in partnership with Olives from Spain. With this new partnership in effect, we were treated to a full tasting menu with each dish created with flavor combinations with olives in mind. With so many ways olives can be prepared, we had a wonderful afternoon putting our taste buds to the test.

 The hors d'oeuvres consisted of marinated olives with toasted and orange, marinated olives with dry chilis and lemon peel, and spanish black olive tapenade.

Spanish black olive tapenade

The first dish we were treated to below, a salad of shrimp & orange scented manzanilla olives- this was such a light citrus infused dish.

Below is a picture of the featured salad of spanish black olive, blue cheese & scallion dressing with watercress and cherry tomatoes.

For the main dish, chef prepared paillard of chicken, Spanish gordal olive relish, with arugula, tomatoes & vidalia onions.

Beautiful display - Olives from Spain

Kelly and Chef Michael Kornick of mk

Chef Michael Kornick will be treating guests to Olives from Spain until the year’s end on his menu. Be sure to check out these tasty delights and the wonderful creations at mk, The Restaurant.

Recipes cards from our afternoon lunch created by Michael Kornick can be found at

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Chicago Firehouse offers fully prepared Thanksgiving feast

One of my favorite Chicago spots, the Chicago Firehouse is offering up a full Thanksgiving dinner to serve 6 to 8. The food there is fabulous! If you're looking for a way out of doing the prep and cooking this holiday, give them a call! :)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Stamper Cheese has a Munster delivery scheduled

The farmer's market in Munster, Indiana is one I visit often during the summer months. Besides all the fresh veggies, crafters and food vendors, a regular there is Stamper Cheese. Well, now that farmer's market season is over, you'll still have a chance to stock up on your favorite cheeses. I got an e-mail today that they'll have a pick-up coming up on November 17 where you can pre-order and pick up at the farmer's market location, the parking lot at Centennial Park on Calumet Avenue.

Take a look at the line-up. Some of my favorites are the Horseradish Chive Havarti and Jack with Morels and Leeks.

Stamper Cheese Logo
On Sunday, November 17th from 9:15am to 9:30am.

       Near to where the Munster farmers market was held, in the parking lot of Centennial Park.
   Ordering Deadline is noon on Saturday November 9th. Its first come first serve on the more popular cheeses so order right away!

 To Order

     Hit reply to this email and order in half pound increments (ie: .5 lbs Basil Jack, 1 lbs Raspberry Bellavitano, 1.5 lbs Pistachio Logs etc...)

Important: Include your area code and phone number in your email!

 The Rules

    - Please be on time or find a cheese buddy to pick up for you.

    -We will be driving a big white van with "Emergency Cheese Services" decals on the side.  

    -Pay for the cheese when you pick it up. Cash and check only. 

    - Using the prices below you should be able to roughly ''ball park'' the amount due. We'll cut them as close as possible but you may want to bring a little extra money just in case. Also, we will have a cooler set out with other hunks of various kinds should you like to add to your order on the spot.

     Thanks so much!  Dan
 Price per pound           Price per ½ pound
Midnight Moon Goat Gouda                                         $26                             $13
Le Claire's Soft Chevre Goat Cheese                         $6 per container (1/3 lbs)
Dante (1 year old sheep)                                              $25                            $12.50
Evalon Aged Goat Cheese (Raw)                                 $26                             $13

Pleasant Ridge Reserve (Raw)                                    $27                              $13.50

Raspberry Bellavitano                                                $18                               $9
Extra aged Parmesan                                                $18                               $9
Extra aged Asiago                                                     $18                               $9

Gouda lightly smoked in applewood                            $12                               $6
Marieke Mustard Seed Gouda (Raw)                          $22                               $11
Marieke Burning Nettle Gouda (Raw)                          $22                               $11
Marieke 18 month aged Gouda (Raw)                        $22                               $11
Big Ed Farm House Gouda (Raw)                               $18                                $9
Bleu Affinee (Aged Buttermilk Blue) (Raw)                  $18                                $9
Mindoro Bleu (Danish style)                                        $12                                $6
Tilston Point Bleu                                                      $18                                $9

8 year old Cheddar                                                    $24                                $12
4 year old Cheddar                                                    $16                                $8                  
Texochile Cheddar (Chipotles in Adobo)                      $13                                $6.50
7 year Cheddar Blue                                                    $17                              $8.50
White Cheddar w/Cranberry                                        $14                                $7

Jack w/ Opal Basil                                                      $12                                $6
Jack w/ fresh Dill                                                        $12                                $6
Jack w/ Habaneros                                                      $12                                $6
Jack w/ Morels and Leeks                                            $12                                $6

Stettler Amish Swiss                                                   $12                                $6
Nut Sweet Swiss (2 year)                                             $14                                $7

Sweet Cream Havarti                                                  $12                                $6
Horseradish Chive Havarti                                           $12                                $6

Triple Cream Brie With Apricot                                     $23                                $11.50
Triple Cream Brie With Blue                                         $20                                $10

String Cheese                                                            $7/bundle                                  
String Cheese Smoked in Apple wood                          $7/bundle                                  
Pistachio Log                                                              $13                                 $6.50
Fresh Curds Plain, Garlic/Dill,                            $6 per bag
Garlic and Herb Mascarpone                                        $6 per container

Monday, November 4, 2013

Cibo Racconto offers taste of Italy in Rosemont

Hi, foodie friends. Sharing a press release from the inbox this morning. Sounds like they have a wonderful line-up!

(Rosemont, IL)- Whether you're kicking off your workweek or winding down your weekend with family, Rosemont's Cibo Racconto has a delectable dining deal for you.

The casual Italian eatery, which is the restaurant extension of the Racconto Italian food import company, serves up weekly specials starting with $4 pasta marinara dishes, available all day on Mondays. Choose from fresh fettuccine, shell-shaped lumache, and Rigatoni cut pasta (reg. $6.99-$7.99), all draped in bursting-with-flavor San Marzano tomato sauce.

Return to Cibo Racconto every Tuesday for $5 bottles of imported Italian red or white wine; choices include bottles from Ciccariello Pinot Grigio, Mezzo Chardonnay, Ciccariello Merlot, and Mezzo Cabernet. Pair your pasta, pizza, or the restaurant's signature panizza- a pizza-panini hybrid stuffed with your choice of cheeses, meats, and vegetables- with a delicious Italian wine at an absolutely unbeatable price.

Wednesdays bring a dinner deal for two, perfect for a girls' get-together or a welcome midweek date night. For just $20 (excludes tax) after 4:00 p.m., two people can each enjoy a pasta or entrée along with a bottle of the Ciccariello Pinot Grigio, Mezzo Chardonnay, Ciccariello Merlot, or Mezzo Cabernet. Cibo's dinner for two is the perfect way to catch up over a hearty, European-style meal for a steal!

Wrap up the week with Cibo Racconto's Sunday Family Dinner, a four-course feast served every week from 3:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. Including a choice of one side, one salad, two pasta dishes, and one entrée, Cibo Racconto's Sunday Family Dinner is priced at $36 for four people (plus tax). There is a $9 fee for each additional guest, and kids 5 and under eat for free. 
Cibo Racconto is the restaurant extension of Racconto, an Italian import company that was started in 1973 by the Mugnolo family. The company has since grown into Chicagoland's top-selling imported Italian pasta brand. Straight-from-Italy offerings include San Marzano tomatoes, olive oils, vinegars, condiments and, of course, pastas imported directly to Chicago from Naples. These fresh and flavorful products serve as the star ingredients in Cibo Racconto's full menu of Italian dishes.

Cibo Racconto, which is conveniently located in near northwest suburban Rosemont near O'Hare International Airport, Allstate Arena, and the Rosemont Theatre, serves classic pasta dishes, flavorful sandwiches, stone-baked pizzas, and signature dishes such as the panizza (a pizza-panini hybrid). All creations are family recipes that are handed down through the generations.

A full catering menu is available, serving popular boxed lunches, specialty sandwich platters, sides and salads, pastas, and entrees. Cibo Racconto's homemade desserts are also available, including cookie trays, cakes, and other tempting creations. 

Cibo Racconto is open Monday through Friday, 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 3:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. The restaurant seats 70 in total, including 35 guests on a heated, four-season patio. All major credit cards are accepted. For more info, call 847.699.2020, visit the website at www.ciboracconto.comtweet at @ciboracconto, or keep up on Facebook at