Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Strawberry Spinach Salad

I'm such a salad freak. I often throw together salads for lunch with whatever I have on hand - but this would be my ideal salad that has all my favorites.

About a cup of fresh baby spinach
4 - 6 strawberries, sliced
Goat cheese crumbles
Candied pecans
And sometimes I throw in some golden raisins or some dried cranberries

Finish it off with a nice vinaigrette. There's a maple variety that I pick up at Casey's Market in Naperville that is wonderful with this salad. A raspberry vinaigrette or balsamic vinaigrette also work well. Best of all - make your own. Such a yummy, clean and mostly healthy meal...and one you can easily make at home with a small number of easy ingredients. :)

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Greenbush Annex

We always make a few trips up to Michigan's Harbor Country during the summer months. Early this summer we made a trip up and my husband suggested stopping at Greenbush Brewing Company in Sawyer, Michigan. We hadn't been there at all last year, so it had been probably two years or so since our last stop there.

It was a Friday evening when we came down the main street in Sawyer and while we expected it to be a little busy, the place was packed and there were groups of people waiting outside to get in. We noticed across the street there was a new place called "Greenbush Annex" with an outdoor area that was also jam packed. We figured we'd move onto New Buffalo or Three Oaks for a drink and made a mental note to make our next visit on a weeknight.

So, the next time around we were there on a Thursday in early August. We came by late in the afternoon not expecting a big crowd, but again the crowd was huge. We decided to park and at least take a peek at how long the wait was. The brewery was packed, so we decided to walk over to the annex. Our boys were with us, so we thought we'd perhaps get an appetizer to share and hubby and I would share a flight before heading to Redamak's for dinner.

The Annex was crowded outside on the lovely summer day, but we noticed that there was a counter inside where there were enough spots for us. Hubby and I got a couple of the 6 ouncers to try. At the Annex they've got about 14 beers on tap and they offer charcuterie boards and grilled sausages made especially for the brewery. You can never go wrong with Star Chicken Shotgun. Hubby also tried Juice Box Hero. Thumbs up on both accounts. They also carry bottled beers there, some local products and they even had some produce that came from Greenbush farms.

The patio area is a nice casual beer garden where you can also play bocce or bean bags and just chill with family or friends on a beautiful Michigan summer day. No wonder it draws such big crowds. We hope to get back there again before Fall moves in and sang a spot outdoors and try some of their sausages and charcuterie.

Greenbush Brewery and Greenbush Annex
5885 Sawyer Road
Sawyer, Michigan
(269) 405-1076


Monday, August 29, 2016

Schoops has more than burgers

If you are true burger lover in the Chicago and Northwest Indiana area, chances are that you have been to one of the Schoop;s locations for one of those tasty freshly made patties that have that unique crunch around the edges that hang out over the edge of the bun. The original restaurant still exists in Munster, Indiana and they've spread out among the Chicago burbs - from Orland Park to Monee to Chicago Ridge to Tinley Park. There are even more locations in NW Indiana - from Highland to Whiting to Valpo to Portage to St. John and even way out to Warsaw.

I know that they have more than burgers on the menu. Sometimes my kids requested chicken fingers and the shakes and malts are super yummy. My dad likes the chili and my mom likes to get a fried egg sandwich. However, on my most recent visit I discovered another yummy sandwich that they offer. Pork tenderloin sandwiches are not something you see on menus in Chicagoland. It really is a Hoosier thing. And even in NW Indiana it's not real common to find places that serve tenderloin sandwiches. You're more likely to find them being served up downstate. But...when my brother popped in to meet up with my two sisters and my mom and I to celebrate Mom's 81st birthday, he ordered a pork tenderloin. After spending his whole life in Illinois, he moved a few months ago to St. John and he was excited to order this Hoosier sandwich. :) Although there is a Schoop's location in St. John, he said that they don't have the pork tenderloin on the menu. So, apparently you can't find it all Schoop's locations, but it is on the menu at the Munster location. I snatched a bite and it was yummy - totally something I would order (if I can force myself to bypass their awesome burgers.) If you have never been to a Schoop's, but are a burger lover, it's a place you need to try. And if you're not into burgers, there are a few other things to try. :)

Also, the Munster location is popular with my kids because they love to sit at the classic barstools and they love to play songs on the juke box. And there are songs there than I can pretty much guarantee you aren't going to find on a juke box anywhere else in the area. Yes, they have the Super Bowl Shuffle if you ever want to get down with the 1986 Bears. :) Find their full list of location at

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Pie Eyed

On a recent drive into Whiting to shoot some photos for a newspaper article I was writing on a new plaza that was added downtown last month, I roped my kids into going along with the lure of lunch on me and some additional spots for Pokemon hunting. My 17-year-old and 11-year-old who usually very reluctantly join me on a work assignment were actually excited to go, so my short work assignment turned into a nice little afternoon with two of my boys.

After I got the pictures I needed, we stopped over at Pie Eyed for a bite. Neither of the boys wanted a full meal, but I was hungry, so I indulged in a half sandwich and a little side salad. The sandwich was a Turkey Italiano with red and green pesto, turkey and provolone on rustic Italian. The salad was accompanied by a lovely champagne vinaigrette. I also got some forest berry tea that was very refreshing. One of the boys had a scrumptious honey rum cupcake and the other had a smoothie.

I've only been to Pie Eyed a couple of times, but I absolutely adore the place. I can assure you that if it was in my community, I would be there each week. It's in a century-plus old building with such charm and the vintage lettering on the windows is adorable. The place is casual and inviting and the food is just so, so good. I've grabbed brownies and other goodies to go on both visits and also when I've run into Pie Eyed at markets in the area.

If you're looking for a nice little day trip, make your way out to Whiting, Indiana to experience Pie Eyed and spent a day at Whiting Lakefront Park. There's a historic movie theatre on the main street and also a great brewery, Bulldog Brewery where you can get a taste of some freshly brewed craft beer. Also, the owner Allison, urged me to go around the corner to a new home decor/accessory/antique shop called the Market @119 that had just opened. The place had some really cute items and it's a great little spot to shop after lunch.

Pie Eyed
1600 119th
Whiting, IN
(219) 655-5018

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Gordon Biersch

Last year I judged a chili competition with a number of restaurants in the Bolingbrook area participating. One stuck with me not just because the chili was good, but because they also were serving these delicious little pretzel rolls with it. I'm a sucker for a good pretzel roll. The place was Gordon Biersch, which I had seen many times while visiting the Promenade in Bolingbrook, but never stopped at.

When I learned what a nice beer selection they brew, I had to make plans to visit. After hubby and I left a recent event nearby at Famous Dave's BBQ, we decided to stop for a drink and some small bites.

I really liked the large beer selection and how the beers are separated into categories, like "light and refreshing," "hoppy" or "malty." I'm more a fan of lighter beers or fruity beers and like some of the darker beers, as well. I like lightly hoppy stuff, but not highly hoppy ones. And I've learned how differently people gauge "hoppy." Asking a craft beer drinker if a beer is hoppy is subject to their taste. They might not find it very hoppy, but I do. It's like asking a Mexican person if a dish it hot. While they'll usually tell me it's not, I end up with my mouth on fire because my version of "hot" and theirs are vastly different.

Anyway, that's one plus with having a "hoppy" category. That tells me flat out that it's probably too hoppy for my taste and I can direct my attention elsewhere. However, that's also why it's great to get flights. You can try out something from every category and try a bit of each. I'm a big fan of flights because I am so indecisive and because I'm a big sampler. I like to have a lot of different things to try. :) Besides, don't flights just make for such pretty pictures when you have several beers lined up with contrasting colors?

Of course, my favorites fit in to the categories I prefer. I always love Hefeweizen. Belgian Quad and Golden Export were also faves.

We decided to order something off the appetizer menu to share with our beer and settled on the Brewer's Combo, which could not be more perfect to pair with a flight of several beers. The Brewer's Combo has Marzen-simmered bratwursts (oh so good!), a soft pretzel and some very garlicky garlic fries. I like a good garlic dish, but wow, this might have been a little over the top even for me. It was accompanied by Marzen mustard (which I loved) and some red cabbage. It was a great beer snack.

I would definitely visit again. I know there will be a good number of beers - and many in the styles I like best -  and there were several other menu items that sounded appetizing and that I wouldn't mind trying out. To check out more on the menus and locations of Gordon Biersch, visit

Lunch Dates With Dad at Fuddruckers

Every family has restaurants that hold a special place because of the attached memories. Many come to mind immediately.

Al's Diner, where I went on many dates with my husband before we were married.
Schools, in Calumet City where our family would go for an occasional burger.
The Pump Room, where my husband and I went after prom.
Carlo Lorenzetti's, where we had family parties and played bocce ball together.
Leona's where my sis and I would get pizzas when I'd visit her.
Calumet Fisheries, where my husband and I often went in high school and he'd peel all my shrimp for me.
Vessuvio's Pizza, where we always ordered our carry-out pizzas growing up.
RX Cafe, that became a favorite of all of us sisters when we visited during Sisters Week in St. Charles several years ago.

Some of those places no longer exist. Another spot we frequented with our parents as teens was Fuddruckers in Calumet City. It's probably my dad's favorite place to go for a burger and we would make lunch dates there on occasion with my kids or just him and I once my youngest started kindergarten and I finally had a kid-free lunch time.

When that location closed, we didn't think there were any others in our area. Dad was bummed. So was I. I enjoyed going there with him for a meal. Then one day I came across something on Facebook about Fuddruckers and realized there's a location not all too far away in Matteson, Illinois. It's less than a half-hour trip, so we head out there once in a while so dad can get one of the burgers he so enjoys and the potato wedges that I can't resist. I signed up for their e-mail list and probably once a week I get an email with some sort of special. Sometimes it's a full meal for $8 (burger, potato wedges and drink) and sometimes it's a buy one, get one free deal. I love getting those in the mail, of course, because it's a money saver, but also because it reminds me that it's been a bit since dad and I had lunch together and it prompts me to set up a lunch date where we can have a meal and chat about the grandkids or politics or our very favorite topic - the Chicago Cubs and how the season is looking. For more on the menu and locations, visit

Friday, August 26, 2016

Scalawags Whitefish & Chips in Mackinaw City

Today I'm reminiscing on a trip in August of last year to Mackinaw Island in Michigan. It's a beautiful place that I think everyone should visit at least once. Just such a peaceful place and like being a world away. And on any road trip, one of the things I get most excited about is the food. First of all, it's great to be on vacation and not have to worry about cooking (we've done a lot of trips where we've been at a campground or resort or cabin where I still end up cooking meals), plus you get to try out eateries you've never been to and you get to eat like a local. In Mackinaw City, eating like a local means good seafood - particularly whitefish. So as we arrived in town in the late afternoon, my first mission was a dinner stop and I loved the casual spot we picked - Scalawags Whitefish and Chips.

The place is nothing spectacular. It's in a little strip, so it's not facing the water and has a bitty dining room, but the food was very, very delicious. Who doesn't love fresh battered whitefish? We sat outside on a little picnic table in the courtyard area. They claim to use premium vegetable oils - low carb and zero trans fat. Of course, hush puppies come with baskets as well as fries and cole slaw. They also serve perch, shrimp, walleye - and for those who don't eat seafood - chicken fingers, hot dogs and ham, grilled chicken or turkey sandwiches.  They also serve Scalawag's Famous Homemade Whitefish Chowder.

Kid meals are generous - a whitefish meal for kids is $5.49. Baskets for grown ups start at $7.89. The place is totally worth a stop for a swift meal if you're looking for some good local grub for lunch or dinner.

Scalawags Whitefish and Chips
Mackinaw City, MI

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Olympics May Be Over, But Get Taste of Brazil at FOGO de CHAO

After weeks of being wrapped up in the excitement, the competition, the drama of the Olympic Summer Games in Rio, finish off the month with a visit to Brazilian Steakhouse FOGO de CHAO where you can feel like you're dining in Rio.

If you've never experienced dining at a FOGO de CHAO location, it's an absolute feast for all of the senses and a must for any foodie. With meats cooked in the Brazilian charraso tradition, you'll be treated with numerous freshly prepared selections brought out and sliced at your table - any one you want and as much as you want.

While the meats take center stage, the fabulous cocktail menu, huge selection of items on the Market Table and Brazilian sides and bread along with dessert offerings make it a meal that you won't soon forget. Linger and visit while you enjoy as much as you can that is served up by an extremely friendly, swift and professional staff.

If you happen to be on the email list, you'll get some great offers in your inbox. So, be sure to sign up. Currently, there's an email offer for a $39 Best of Brazil Dinner through August 28. The three-course dinner includes meats, market table and side dishes with bread. Included are a selection of fire-roasted meats - Picanha (Sirloin), Alcatra (Top Sirloin), Fraldinha (Bottom Sirloin), Cordeiro (Leg of Lamb), Linguiça (Pork Sausage), Costela de Porco (Pork Ribs), Lombo (Pork), and Frango (Chicken.) However, you must show the email for the special pricing.

For those who aren't big meat eaters, there's an option of having the Market Table only. Lunch and brunch meals are also offered at a lower price.

In Chicagoland, there are three locations - one in Rosemont, one in Chicago and the newest area location in Naperville. For more information on locations, menus and what the charraso experience is all about, visit


Friday, August 19, 2016

Try Schmacon - the beefy alternative to bacon - at Schmaltz Deli

Bacon is one of our most beloved American foods and those who don't eat pork in their diet or are looking for a leaner version no longer have to miss out. Schmacon™ is a whole-muscle beef produced with a proprietary spice blend that is being regarded as “Beef’s Answer to Bacon™. With less calories, fat and sodium than traditional pork, the natural, smoked and seasoned beef product can be used as a bacon substitute in breakfast meals, side dishes or on sandwiches.

Chicago Foodie Sisters were invited out to Schmaltz Deli in Naperville to try out some of the sandwiches on their menu that include Schmacon. Inventor and Schmaltz Deli Chef Howard Bender has a few favorite sandwiches on the menu that include Schmacon™ and they are pretty awesome. We tried out several of them at the deli, where you can also purchase packages of Schmacon™ to cook at home. (We received a sample pack and made some Schmacon™burgers the following day.) It's also available at select Jewel Osco locations and Fresh Thyme Farmers Market.

On the menu at Schmaltz are:

·         Schmacon™ Lettuce Tomato: Schmacon™, sun-ripened tomatoes, lettuce and low-fat tomato basil mayonnaise on toasted tomato basil bread.
·         Schmacon™ Philly: Warm roast beef and Schmacon™ with grilled onions, sweet red peppers and melted American cheese on a hero roll.
·         Nohemi’s Hero: Turkey and Schmacon™ with Provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion, guacamole and spicy Chipotle mayo on a hero roll.
·         Jalapeno Dog: Schmaltz-brand all-beef dog topped with Schmacon™, grilled onions and jalapeño peppers with melted American cheese on a hot dog bun.
·         Chicken Club: Sliced chicken breast with Schmacon™, guacamole, lettuce and tomatoes on three slices of toasted wheat bread.
·         Schmacon™ Schmookies: Homemade triple chocolate cookies topped with Schmacon™.

You can also add Schmacon™ to any of the other sandwiches on their menu. 

My favorite was the Chicken Club because, well, guacamole and Schmacon™ together are just an outstanding combination. The Schmacon™ serving was quite generous and the sandwiches there are always piled high. The Schmacon™ Philly was also a big winner combined with lean, hot roast beef and grilled onions and sweet red peppers.

The Schmacon™ Philly
Look at the size of this Chicken Club!
A classic SMT - Schmacon™, Lettuce and Tomato
The Nohemi's Hero
Chicken Club
Schmacon is for sale in the refrigerated case at Schmaltz Deli in Naperville.
Interior of Schmaltz Deli in Naperville. If you haven't been there, it's definitely a place to put on your foodie bucket list!
  For more information, please visit

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Krispy Kreme to open in November in Homewood

Those of you who have been longing for those warm, glazed, gooey treats known as Krispy Kreme doughnuts,, will be happy to know that the doughnut chain will be making its return to Chicagoland in November in the south suburb of Homewood.

Krispy Kreme officials announced today that the new store at 17815 S. Halsted will mark he first of eight planned shops coming to the area as Krispy Kreme re-enters the Chicagoland market after a seven year absence. Two more shops are slated to open in 2017 in the area.

The global retailer of the signature Original Glazed Doughnut, coffee and other sweet treats broke ground Monday on the new location, which will feature a new rebranded design and inviting atmosphere for relaxing over coffee and doughnuts. It will also have a drive-thru.

"With such an active and supportive community, Homewood offers the perfect environment for Krispy Kreme to relaunch in the area," said Carlos Larcada, President of Chicagoland Restaurants LLC in a press release. "We're eager to turn the Hot Lightback on in Chicagoland."

Krispy Kreme classics have won over sweet-toothed fans since 1937, when they first opened in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The new look and branding promises to make Krispy Kreme the new neighborhood doughnut destination in Homewood and its other upcoming locations in the Chicago area. A total of eight Cook County locations are planned by 2020. A new app can be followed for updates and alerts, got to  For more information on Krispy Kreme, visit

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Fine Cheese Co.'s Quince English Fruits for Cheese

On a recent visit to an awesome new deli and gourmet shop in Griffith, Indiana, called Charcuterie, the owner, Skip, pointed out a few of their unique products. One he recommended was a fruit spread from the The Fine Cheese Co. in the UK. This spread is made with quince, which from what I learned via Google, is an ancient fruit that grown on trees in Turkey and southeast Asia that is similar to an apple or pear. It definitely makes for a delicious spread, perfect on top of a soft cheese on these little toasty bites that I also got there that come from France.

The spreads are also available online at fine where you'll also find other delicious varieties, including cherry, fig, gooseberry and damson.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Goodies For a Grown-up Picnic

I recently put up a post with some of my picks for a kid picnic. Here's a few ideas for a picnic for the parents or the rest of the adults out there. :) Summer is full of opportunities for picnicking - at an outdoor concert or a visit to a local park or beach. Charcuterie boards are the way to go these days, so pack a board and a knife and slice up some of your favorite meats and cheeses to enjoy for a meal in the outdoors. Here's a few ideas from Chicago Foodie Sisters of what to pack in that perfect picnic basket.

1) Viki's granola - This wholesome snack is great with a handful of fresh berries or nuts.

2) Trois Petits Cochons - pate, sausage, mini peppers and petit toast. Have a little upscale bit of protein instead of a boring sandwich. Among their products are air dried sausage and pates, including a chicken and duck fois gras, pork and chicken liver mousse and duck rilettes. The Saucisson Sec sausage, made from an old-school French recipe was a hit on our picnic. The Petits Poivrons (sweet mini peppers) are designed for charcuterie board in mind - a nice little bite to add to your meats, cheese and fruit.

3) Cheese - to accompany the sausage and crackers. I had some Gouda on hand, one of my variety cheese varieties.

4) Flat bread crackers from Drier's Meat Market in Three Oaks, Michigan. I love these. They have lots of seeds and lots of crunch and are great for spreading things on or dipping.

5) Pitted Olives from Gaea. Olive lovers will enjoy these small snack packs to include in the grown-up picnic.

6) Nuts. I had a mix of macadamia, cashew and pecans. Bring some plastic bags or a bowl to mix the nuts with some granola and fruit for a nice little homemade trail mix.

7) Fresh berries - I had some freshly picked blueberries from a visit to a U-pick in Northwest Indiana. And I also had some raspberries from our own backyard. Fresh is the best. :)

8) Don't forget the beverages - like pink moscato or a nice light Belgian ale. Leffe is one of my favorites. :)

***Disclosure: The Viki's Granola, Trios Petites Cochon products and Gaea Olives were provided. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are 100% my own.

Simple Stir Fry

On a recent summer afternoon, with a fridge full of some fresh veggies and some chicken breast in the freezer, I decided to throw together a quick meal. I'm really not much into sauces that usually come in Asian dishes. The brown and white sauces that often soak the entrees at some of my favorite Chinese spots often turn me off to the dishes. I like them simpler where I can taste the veggies rather than a heavy sauce. This stir fry had nothing more than a little olive oil to sauté the veggies and some pepper.

In one pan I added a little water and put the frozen chicken breast strips to warm them while the veggies cooked.

In a second pan, I added a little olive oil along with fresh red, green and orange peppers, sugar snap peas and broccoli. I didn't sauté them long since I like a little crunch and left it at that. I put it over a scoop of rice for a nice fresh, clean meal.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Media Morel Dinner at Eagle Ridge Resort

I shared a bit on this trip on my travel blog, but wanted to share it here on the food blog as well. I was invited out in the spring to Eagle Ridge Resort in Galena for the 3rd annual Morel Media Hunt. Morel hunting is something I had never done before, so it was a fun new experience for me. We stayed in a rental house on the lovely resort in this peaceful town that attracts golfers and shoppers and history lovers  and antique hunters and those who appreciate bustling, but charming main streets with quaint shops and unique architecture.

The highlight of our visit was our hunt in the woods for these delectable and short-lived mushrooms, but we were also treated to some phenomenal food while we were there. The culinary team went all out in planning the Morel Media Dinner that we enjoyed the evening we arrived. They did a phenomenal job of incorporating the morels into each course of a fantastic gourmet meal. Other ingredients foraged from the area were also featured in the meal, like one of the most delicious desserts I've ever had - a wild violet sorbet.

Our hunt took us out into the woods into a secret spot on the grounds where the chefs led us through and informed us on what to look for. I quickly determined that I never would have made it in pioneer times when I had to forage for my food. I only spotted two during the hunt. But I did bring them home and used them to make a delicious sauce for some chicken.

Galena is a delightful area for a getaway and foodies will be in heaven at the Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa's restaurant, the Woodlands Restaurant and Lounge, where you can enjoy fresh, seasonal fare on the breakfast, brunch or dinner menu. They also feature weekly specials, which currently include such dishes as Ramps Pancetta Prawns, Spring Lamb Pappardelle and Macadamia Crusted Scallops. For more info on the resort, visit

Monday, August 8, 2016

Minerva Dairy Flavored Butters

I recently got a nice package from Minerva Dairy of flavored butters to try out. From a 5th generation family owned Ohio farm, the butters come from pasture-raised cows that are hormone and antibiotic free.

I've been really enjoying the creamy, flavored butters - that are perfect on a roll or bread, but also pair well with other dishes. The maple syrup butter is delicious on pancakes and waffles and the garlic herb is great to add to some fresh veggies in a foil packet on the grill. The pumpkin spice is perfect on a warm wheat dinner roll. Visit the website to check out their products and place an online order to try them out yourself.

***Discolure: I was provided with free product for the purpose of a review. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.