Sunday, March 31, 2013

Spring Flower Cupcakes

Today for Easter, my friend Cindy invited me to bring the kids to her mom's place. She said they'd be having a big egg hunt and we have boys in the same grade, so my middle guy was looking forward to going there to hang out with his buddy. So, the two of us stopped by just in time for the egg hunt. As she promised, it was HUGE. There are 36 grand kids and 12 great-grand kids, I believe, so there were hundreds of plastic eggs scattered about the yard.

After the kids completed the hunt, the grown ups sat at the table and peeled tape off the plastic eggs so they could be packed away for next year's hunt. While sitting at the table, I couldn't help but notice these beautiful cupcakes made by Cindy's sister-in-law, Sue, for the occasion..

Sue explained that she decorated them to look like perfectly bloomed flowers by taking mini marshmallows and cutting them diagonally. Then they went into a Ziplock bag with colored sugar. Once the marshmallows were cut the sticky inside attracted the sugar and voila! - instant petals. Three rounds on top of the cupcake and a Skittle in the middle and you're done. She said it was quite time consuming, but weren't the results awesome????????

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter brunch served at Artisan Table

I received another press release for Easter brunch at the new Artisan Table at the Chicago Marriott in Naperville. It sounds like a lovely line-up and the food there is absolutely amazing!! I love their menu options, which utilize a good deal of local and organic ingredients. It's a great place to enjoy your Easter meal with family and friends.

Including an Easter Bunny, Easter Egg Hunt and Brunch Prepared
by Chef Curry for $39.00 per Adult and $15.00 per Child

NAPERVILLE, Ill. (Mar. 19, 2012) – Easter Sunday wouldn’t be the same without a delightful brunch to enjoy with family and friends. Children and adults can celebrate Easter this year with an exceptional brunch prepared by executive chef Sean Curry and pastry chef Erica Tomei, along with an Easter Bunny and Easter Egg Hunt for children. Priced at $39 per adult and $15 per child, brunch will be served in three seatings at 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. on Sun., Mar. 31, 2013.
            A few items on the menu include:
  • Carving station, with leg of lamb, lamb jus lie, mint chutney and toasted pita chips
  • Delicious pastries, including housemade cinnamon rolls, cinnamon honey scones, blueberry muffins, crumb cake and banana nut bread
  • Breakfast stations, including omelet and eggs to order, Belgium waffles and a smoke salmon and Grau Lox station
  • Salad bar with a array of toppings, such as pickled bean salad, button mushrooms, roasted yellow beats, honey roasted almonds, crispy soy beans, giardinare, and chicken salad
  • Grilled artichokes, with sautéed spinach, shallots and olives in basil butter
  • Seared salmon, with Caribbean mango moho, pineapple salsa
 For questions or to make reservations, diners can call Artisan Table at 630-505-4900.

                                                                         #  #  #                                                    
About Artisan Table
The design of the 114-seat Artisan Table restaurant is both modern and warm. Led by executive chef Sean Curry, the Artisan Table features an eclectic global menu of satisfying dishes that is inspired by local, organic ingredients and shaped by chef Curry’s classical training and his diverse culinary experiences in the U.S. and abroad. The kitchen is open from 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. for breakfast, 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. for lunch and 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. for dinner. The lounge is open from 11 a.m. until midnight serving handcrafted beverages and a cocktail-version of the restaurant’s main menu.

About the Chicago Marriott Naperville
The Chicago Marriott Naperville is the newest and largest full-service hotel in Chicago’s western suburbs.  With its brand new construction and contemporary design, the 424-room hotel has more than 25,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space, plus a 7,000 sq. ft. ballroom to accommodate almost any size of meeting, trade show or wedding.  Guest rooms include pillowtop mattresses and Frette linens, and all guests can enjoy free parking, the indoor pool and fitness center, hotel-wide WiFi, business services, and the superlative Artisan Table restaurant. Visit for more information, to make reservations, and to find out about current specials and packages.  The Marriott Naperville is part of Marriot International, based in Bethesda, Md., one of the world’s leading lodging companies with nearly 3,700 properties in 72 countries and territories worldwide.

Ethnic goodies galore await you in Kenosha

This showed up in my inbox last week and I wanted to share it. Kenosha is one of our family's favorite spots to visit for a short getaway or weekend trip. There a plenty of fun attractions and, of course, Lake Michigan is a huge draw -- but the food, oh, the food...

From a hearty breakfast at Frank's Diner to a juicy burger and shake at The Spot Drive In to some Wisconsin cheese and sausages at The Brat Stop or Mars Cheese Castle to German specialties at House of Gerhard to sweets at the Jelly Belly Center, Kenosha is a foodie's paradise. Then there are great summer events like the Taste of Wisconsin and Bristol Renaissance Fair  and the Kenosha HarborMarket (which actually is runs most of the year and is indoors during the winter) where even more good eats can be found.

But...this piece is on the ethnic cuisine that can be found around Kenosha. I have not yet been to Linnea Bakery, but will have to add it to my list for our next visit. And House of Gerhard remains one of my favorite German eateries that I've ever been to. For us Chicagoans, it is just a hop, skip and a jump away. So, if you are traveling through Kenosha, be sure to make a stop and bring your appetite along!

The World is at Your Fingertips in Kenosha
The Proof is in the Palette

While Kenosha’s strong Italian roots are still very evident, at Tenuta’s Deli among other places, the city’s dining palette showcases a variety of cultures. Located in southeast Wisconsin on the Lake Michigan shore, you’ll think you’re actually in Sweden or Norway when you visit Linnea Bakery in Downtown Kenosha. This Scandinavian Bakery and Nordic Café turns a year old this July.

In honor of their Swedish and Norwegian grandparents, Mark and Kim Rutkowski created an authentically Scandinavian business - a mix of traditional and modern. The bakery serves breakfast and lunch and features Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Danish and Icelandic breads and pastries, and gourmet soups and sandwiches – all made from scratch. There is also a selection of imported grocery products and one-of-a-kind, handmade gifts from the Nordic countries.

The bakery’s most popular item is also Sweden’s most well-known sweet treat: Kanelbulle. What can be described as a Swedish pretzel-esque cinnamon pastry, this treat is made every day. Sweet cardamomdough is used with a cinnamon filling, and then it’s twisted. The word translates to cinnamon bun. Among the other popular items: braided cardamombread, Swedish Limpa Rye bread, and cardamom coffee. The coffee is regular black Swedish dark roast, roasted in Milwaukee. It’s brewed at the bakery with cardamom (a powder/spice). There is nothing fried on the menu.

Kim recently returned from an educational/purchasing trip to Sweden. Among her stops: a visit to the Tea Centre of Stockholm in Södermalm where the bakery gets its Söderblandning tea. Recipes were gathered, and in Stockholm, ingredients were purchased, including cloudberry. Up in the Arctic, handmade crafts were acquired at an annual market in a small village, where Laplanders (the Sami people) gather to sell the goods they’ve been making all year. Birch mugs, antler keychains, and wool tomtes (similar to gnomes) were among the treasures she returned with.
Visit to read more about Linnea Bakery, including the owners’ future goals, the Scandinavian holidays celebrated at the bakery, and the meaning behind its name. Linnea Bakery is located at 512 56th Street. For more information: (262) 484-4203.
Soon’s Sushi Café serves authentic Sushi, Korean and Japanese cuisine. It’s owned by Soon and her husband Robert Noel, after Soon operated her own restaurant on an island off of Korea for about 17 years. A family friendly place, it’s recommended that sushi first-timers start with a California Roll, or an AAC (Asparagus, Avocado & Cucumber) Roll.

Authentic Mexican food traditionally has been thought of as hot and spicy, however Tacos el Rey is determined to change that fallacy. The restaurant’s family recipes are subtly spiced. The food is prepared fresh daily with no preservatives, from the flour tortillas right down to the refried beans and guacamole.

Gerhard Dillner came to the United States from his native Germany and with his wife Ruth opened House of Gerhard in Kenosha in 1964. To this day, the family continues to serve outstanding authentic German cuisine and American favorites. ‘If it's a taste of Deutschland you seek, you needn't fly to Bavaria.

Kenosha certainly has its top-notch Italian restaurants! At Casa Capri, the Stella Family has maintained its reputation for fine Italian-American dining and personalized service for 60 years. The menu’s original recipes date back to the early 1900’s of Northern Italy. In all, the whole of Italy is covered, along with excellent steaks and seafood. The restaurant’s signature pasta dish is the baked stuffed rigatoni.

25 years ago this April, Mangia Trattoria opened its doors in Kenosha. The date was April 26, 1988, to be exact. Four-star chef Tony Mantuano and his sister Susan Mantuano-Tishuk own the restaurant, which is filled with hearty Italian aromas and a warm, inviting atmosphere. Cooking classes are offered at various times during the year. The internationally known chef owns many other restaurants, including Spiaggia in Chicago.

For more on these restaurants:

Let’s not forget Kenosha HarborMarket ( This weekly bustling European-style mixed market returns outdoors to Kenosha’s lakefront May 18 (Winter HarborMarket is inside Rhode Center for the Arts until then). With findings of African tiger melons, baklavaGreek ‘pizza’, and fresh, homemade ricotta, the market was referred to as the “United Nations of food” on The Working Mom’s Travels blog.

For more information about things to see and do in the Kenosha Area, or for a 2013 Kenosha Area Visitors Guide, log on to or call the KenoshaArea Convention & Visitors Bureau at (262) 654-7307 or (800) 654-7309. The Visitors Guide is also available by visiting a Kenosha Area Visitor Information Center: located at I-94 & Hwy. 165 and at 812 - 56th St. in Downtown Kenosha. Follow us on Twitter and “Like” us on Facebook to receive updates about events, specials, and more.

GUEST POST: Celebrating World Water Day by Reducing Water Use in the United States

The following guest post comes from Danielle Nierenberg, Co-founder of Food Tank: The Food Think Tank. I'm a little late in posting it (World Water Day was last Friday), but the information is still very relevant.

Celebrating World Water Day by Reducing Water Use in the United States
by Danielle Nierenberg, Co-founder of Food Tank: The Food Think Tank (

The United States is one of the world’s biggest users of water—many Americans use as much water as approximately 900 Kenyans. As a result, water resources in the U.S. are shrinking. In the last five years, there have been water shortages in almost every part of the country, including the worst drought in at least 25 years, which hit 80 percent of the country’s farmland in 2012. Even worse, the damaged land won’t fully recover this year, and at least 36 states are expecting local, regional, or statewide water shortages, even without drought.

The Natural Resources Defense Council expects water scarcity to affect the American South, West, and Midwest the most. Fourteen states in these regions already have “extreme” or “high” risk of water scarcity. Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Nevada, and Texas face the most danger because they are expected to see some of the largest increases in population by 2030. Water scarcity is about more than lack of water, it’s about lack of drinkable water. It is estimated that as many as 53.6 million Americans have contaminated tap water.

But as eaters and consumers, we can profoundly reduce water waste and water consumption through the food choices we make. Recent research from the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition (BCFN) shows that a healthful diet and environmentally sustainable diet can go hand in hand.

Here are five steps to save water in the United States:

Eating a little less meat. Switching from a meat-centered weekly menu to a diet rich in vegetables and grains could save 2,500 liters of water a day! And eating grass-fed and locally-raised meat, eggs, and dairy products can also save water.

Steam veggies instead of boiling. In general, steaming vegetables uses less water than boiling, and according to a study in the Journal of Food Quality, it is more nutritious. For example, boiling corn on the cob in a large pot may use 6-8 quarts of water, whereas steaming only uses 1-2 quarts. If you must boil, save the water for your garden, soup stock, or use it to clean pots.

Provide support for small-scale, family farms. Agricultural subsidies in the United States disproportionately support large-scale agribusinesses over the small-scale producers who are more likely to be engaged in sustainable food production, and may be challenged by drought or commodity price fluctuations. Changes in government support services could reduce this deficit and improve food and water security.

Streamline water use in home gardens. During the summer months, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that nearly 40 percent of household water is used for watering lawns and gardens. National Geographic suggests incorporating native plants into your garden that are adapted to the local climate and often require less water. Manually watering plants, instead of using automatic sprinklers, cuts water use by 33 percent, according to a report by the EPA. Consumers can also buy self-watering planters, or construct rain barrels that can save you up to 1,300 gallons of water.

Reduce food waste. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reports that nearly one third of all food produced for human consumption is wasted throughout production, storage, transportation, consumption and disposal. Learn about your food’s shelf life and how long you can store food in your freezer. Other ways to reduce food waste are only buying what you plan to eat, using leftovers to create new meals or donating food you can’t use to soup kitchens.

It’s more important than ever that this World Water Day Americans find ways to save every drop.

Danielle Nierenberg is a food and agriculture expert and co-founder of Food Tank: The Food Think Tank (

Celebrate Easter with brunch at Niche

I got this announcement in my inbox with details on this gourmet brunch being served on Easter Sunday at Niche in Geneva. If you're looking for someplace special to spend the holiday with friends and family, I can guarantee that you will not be disappointed. Niche is a gem in the suburbs and an experience you won't forget.


March 31: Celebrate Easter Sunday with Brunch Prepared by Chef Serena Perdue

Easter Sunday wouldn’t be the same without a delightful brunch to enjoy with family and friends. Guests can celebrate Easter this year with an exceptional brunch prepared by executive chef Serena Perdue while they dine in the relaxing atmosphere at Niche. Mimosas and Bloody Marys will also be featured.
Priced at $44 per person for a three-course tasting menu, brunch will be available between 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Sun., Mar. 31, 2013. A few menu items include:
  • Artichoke Quiche, Hasselmann eggs, braised artichoke, baby spinach, red pepper with mache salad
  • Smoked Salmon Benedict, poached egg, smoked salmon, Hollandaise sauce, pumpernickel, capers, dill
  • Orange Brioche French Toast, crisp brioche, creamy ricotta, Bliss Maple Syrup, fresh fruit
  • Steak and Eggs, smoked hanger steak, fried egg, sweet potato rosti
  • Seared Tuna, Beluga lentils, red onion marmalade, piquillo pepper coulis, mango ginger chutney

 For more information and to make Easter reservations, diners can call Niche at (630) 262-1000.

Artichoke Chicken Casserole

When we were kids, we spent a few Easter Sundays celebrating with my sister-in-law's family. We always loved to go there because they lived in a 1920's mansion with huge grounds, big rooms, hidden doorways, high ceilings and gorgeous fireplaces. We'd never been in a house like that before. It was huge. It was beautiful. It was so much fun to explore.

Spending Easter there was a lot of fun. Much of the fun was because of my sister-in-law's sister, Patty. She didn't have any kids of her own, but she had fun hiding eggs all over the lawn outside and she dressed up in a bunny costume to take pictures with the kids.

Sadly, Patty passed away a few years ago in her 40's, but I think about her as Easter approaches because she played a big part in my memories of Easter as a child.

Once I was grown up I remember going to the mansion (we all called it the "Big House") for my sister-in-law's baby shower. Patty did much of the planning and arrangements for the shower and had made a delicious Artichoke Chicken Casserole. This was long before my foodie days when I was a new mom and wasn't very adventurous when it came to food and I think it was the first time I'd ever had artichokes. It was so good and I asked Patty to share the recipe with me. I still have it tucked in my cookbook in her handwriting, so with it being Easter weekend and me again remembering her, I thought it was an appropriate time to share it.

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 large cans of artichokes (quartered)
3 packages of Swiss Cheese
1/2 cup of mayonnaise
Bread crumbs

Saute chicken in olive oil, lemon, white wine and a touch of garlic. Shred the cooked chicken.

Cut the cheese into small cubes. Blend in the mayo and chicken and artichokes.

Pour into a baking dish, cover the mixture with bread crumbs, cover with aluminum foil. Bake at 325 for 30 minutes or so. Remove the foil for the last five minutes or so to brown the top. I like to serve with rye bread.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Ada St. expands cocktail menu

Just sharing a bit of info that popped up in my inbox. See information below on the expanded cocktail menu at Ada St.

Ada StAda St 

After a year as one of Chicago's best cocktail destinations, Ada St., a  DMK Restaurant, is excited to offer guests a new beverage menu. Including 40 delicious cocktails, the menu allows patrons the opportunity to try something new, as well as keep it simple with a delicious twist on their go-to drink.  

Utilizing a mix of seasonal and time-honored ingredients, Ada St.'s expert mixologists have crafted a list categorized mainly by liquor, leaving imbibers to choose from familiar classics with an Ada twist, new and unique signature cocktails as well as popular Ada favorites. Broken down by groups such as Celebratory Libations; Vodka; Gin; Rum; Tequila; Irish & Scotch; Bourbon & Rye; Aromatics; Shots and Night Caps, there is a large variety for any taste, leaving guests intrigued to try more.

The full beverage menu is as follows:

Reservations can be made by visiting or directly on Open Table 

About Ada St.
Led by David Morton and Chef Michael Kornick, Ada St. is an intimate, 45-seat destination curating an inimitable experience of food, wine and spirits. Chef Kornick and Chef Zoe Schor (Craft, Bouchon, Beso) have created a menu of sharable plates and tavern fare celebrating local bounty in a style that seamlessly incorporates the global flavors that have inspired Chef Kornick throughout his career.

Ada St. features an innovated cocktail program as well as a dynamic wine program, including a thoughtful collection from around the world, represents quality, affordability and, while not exclusive of tastes, the opportunity to always discover something new. Ada St. is open Monday through Saturday beginning at 5:30 p.m. Reservations and more information can be found by visiting the restaurant's websiteFacebook page and Twitter stream.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Market Day Hot Chocolate Box

Each month when I place my Market Day order, I look through the clearance section to see if there are any bargains or any products I haven't tried or any that I really like that are going to be discontinued. On my last order, I noticed a lot of Christmas items that had gone on sale. One was this box of flavored hot chocolates. I believe it was $12.49 for the package of 30 packets. That's about 41 cents each, so not bad. When I've bought these Land O'  Lakes brand hot chocolate packets at the grocery store, they seem to usually be 59 cents each. And it's way cheaper than buying a bottle of soda or a cup of coffee or hot chocolate at Starbucks. So, I'm counting it as a win. And with this crazy spring weather we're getting -- there is a blanket of white on the ground as I'm typing -- it looks like there may still be a few more chilly days ahead to enjoy it.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

White Castle's Fudge Dipped Cheesecake on a Stick

On a spontaneous stop for a snack at White Castle last week with my husband and a couple of the boys, my youngest pointed out the cheesecake that was just 99 cents. He knows I like cheesecake and suggested I try it. Who am I to argue with a 7-year-old urging me to order cheesecake?

So, I gave it a try and have to say it was pretty good, especially considering the price. I'm not big on heavy desserts and this was about 3 bites. So, perfect way to finish off the meal without having too much. So, if you happen to be stopping at a White Castle, give it a try.

I also have to mention that I love that Applebee's also offers a 99 cent dessert now. It's a brownie bite (actually 4 or 5 bites) along with a little scoop of vanilla ice cream and some chocolate sauce. As I contemplated ordering it on my last visit, the waitress assured me, "It's the best way ever to spend 99 cents!" I have to agree with her. :)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Hofbrauhaus offers festive atmosphere

Last week the Hofbrauhaus Chicago in Rosemont held its official grand opening and I was lucky enough to get a press invite. The evening included a German band, keg tapping ceremony and a parade. Tons of fun. I'll get to the food in another post, but just wanted to give a glimpse at the lively atmosphere. The CEO of Hofbrauhaus in Munich was there for the keg tapping. There was a great band on stage and then another large band leading the parade. If you're looking for a good time along with your dinner, it'll be hard to match something like this for German food, fun and entertainment.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The wedding menu - Chicago Foodie Sisters-style

So, Chicago Foodie Sister Becky finally tied the knot yesterday. It was a super cool wedding, held on the campus of Notre Dame and giving a nod to her groom Tim's Irish/Scottish roots. This guy played the processional. :)

And the groom wore a kilt, as well.

They also tied in some Harry Potter accents since they are both big fans. The tables weren't numbered, they each had a Harry Potter-inspired name. I was asked to do two readings and one was a quote from J.K. Rowling. And Becky got my 11-year-old into Harry Potter big time. He even wore a Gryffindor tie for the occasion.

The two wrote their own vows. Tim totally won over everyone with his romantic words, including calling his bride "My lady."

This was on the tables.

Here's the beautiful cake. I just noticed there are unicorns on top. :) I'll have to ask Becky what that was all about.

So, the food was excellent. It was so much better than standard banquet know, the usual family-style chicken, beef and mostaccioli. This was the pasta station.

And the salad station with lots of goodies, like slivered almonds, spinach, shredded radish, bacon and bleu cheese.

And at the crepes station, you could have a savory or sweet crepe made.

The menu...

The kids got fruit plates with their chicken tender meals.

Savory crepes

Sweet crepes

The pasta dishes. The gorgonzola sauce was fabulous!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Chicken and Amish-style Noodle Soup

I know I've done several chicken soup posts on the blog. Every pot seems to be just a little different from the last. Here's how I made the latest pot.

5 bouillon cubes
10 cups water
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts

Bring to a boil. Remove chicken and cut into small pieces.

Add 3 celery ribs, chopped
About a dozen baby carrots sliced

Return to a boil for about five minutes and then reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Add about 8 ounces Amish-style noodles. Add garlic salt and Italian seasoning to taste. Bring to a boil and continue to boil according to directions. Return chicken to pot during last couple minutes so that it warms.

Loaded eggs

I really like scrambled eggs and omelets. And I love veggies with my eggs. Earlier this week, I decided to make on omelet for breakfast, but I knew it would be tricky once I started cleaning out the fridge and pulling out every veggie I could find. So, I just sautéed all my veggies in olive oil and then added the eggs and made it into a big skillet meal.

Green onion

I sautéed the veggies in some extra virgin olive oil and added a little garlic. Once they had softened, I whisked 5 eggs, added a little water and poured it over the veggies. As it was cooking, I added some bacon bits and shredded swiss and gruyere blend. Once it finished cooking, I topped it with a little more cheese. Good stuff!