Friday, July 29, 2016

Hop over to Homewood for the first Homewood Hopfest

Some brew fest fun is coming to south-suburban Homewood. Brewfest Partners, the folks who have brought you the Valpo Brewfest and Valpo Beer Rally, the Munster Ale Fest, the Great Lakes Brew Fest, the Border War Beer Fest, several beer cruises out of Navy Pier and more are launching a new event in Homewood. Tickets are still available - $65 for VIP and and $40 for general admission with designated driver admissions also available. The event includes live entertainment and food available for purchase. Find more info at Here's a look at the line-up of brewers:

List of Brewers

  • 3 Sheeps Brewing

  • 350 Brewing Company

  • Ale Syndicate Brewers

  • Arcade Brewery

  • Baderbrau Brewing

  • Banging Gavel Brews

  • Black Belt Brewery

  • Blue Island Beer Company

  • Blue Nose Brewery

  • Brickstone Brewery

  • Crazy Mountain

  • Evil Horse

  • Firestone Walker

  • Flossmoor Station Brewing Company

  • Half Acre Beer Company

  • Lagunitas Brewing Company

  • McKenzies Hard Cider

  • Noon Whistle Brewing

  • One Trick Pony Brewery

  • Pollyanna Brewing Company

  • Revolution Brewing

  • Slapshot Brewing

  • Sprecher Brewing Company

  • Twisted Hippo

  • Urban Legend Brewing Company

  • Vice District Brewing

  • Wild Blossom Meadery

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Red Mango

A place that my kids have come to love (introduced by their aunt and uncle) is Red Mango. If we're heading to one of the stores nearby, we sometimes stop for them to get a treat. It's one of those build-your-own and pay-by-the-weight places. There are toppings and sprinkles galore. While they pile on the toppings, I usually sample a taste or two - the Lucky Taro was one of the flavors on our last stop and it was really yummy!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Party time at Bohemian Joe's

Recently I attended a retirement party at Bohemian Joe's and just had to share some visuals of the delicious meal. They have a small private room at the north end of the dining room that is great for small gatherings.

This crab dip is delicious!

They have the best bleu cheese dressing.

Enjoyed the pizza margherita.

The bruschetta drizzled with balsamic.
One of the specials that week was bluegill.

I tried out the ribeye - very good.

Finished off the meal with bread pudding. It was delicious!

Go to for more information and follow along on Facebook.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Refrigerator Pickles

Our family took a trip out to Garwood Orchard in LaPorte, Indiana last weekend and we picked a few things - green beans, blackberries, peppers, blueberries and pickles. I love to make refrigerator pickles in the summer to grab as a snack or use as a condiment for burgers or sandwiches.

We picked several pounds and I sliced some up and cut some into wedges and put them in jars and plastic containers in the fridge and after a week they are pretty tasty. This is such an easy recipe.

3 cups of water
1 cup of vinegar
1 tbsp. sea salt
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. minced garlic
sprigs of fresh dill (or a couple teaspoons of dried dill)
fresh pickles (I used three large pickles)

Boil your water and vinegar with salt and sugar. After it cools, transfer to a container and add garlic, pickles and dill. Cover and refrigerate for at least three days. Keep stored in refrigerator for 30 days.

Gouda and Avocado Chicken Sandwich

Many of our summer meals are made on the grill. There are lots of burgers and lots of toppings. But, chicken breasts are another item that we consume a lot of in the summer. Sometimes slathered with barbecue and sometimes marinated in other flavors. We always make extra for lunches the next day. Recently I marinated several in Italian dressing and grilled them. They make for great sandwiches.

This marinated chicken breast went on a sesame seed bun topped with gouda, avocado, red leaf lettuce and mayonnaise. There are so many toppings that can be used for sandwiches and burgers and I found a winner in this combo.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

10 Kid Picnic Picks

Keeping kids busy during the summer means lots of time outdoors and while you're out, you still want to make sure they're getting something substantial in their bellies...because, kids that are hot and hungry are not a good mix. Here are 10 items to pack in your next picnic basket:

1) Viki's Granola - Granola has a lot of health benefits - Viki's is sodium free, gluten free, dairy free, kosher with no sugar added, no preservatives and using whole grains. It's also great for kids to make their own trail mix (by adding some of the cranberries, nuts and fishy crackers shown.

2) Nuts - It's a good idea to bring dry food that eliminate the need for ice packs or coolers. A handful of cashews or almonds or pecans are a great snack that will give an energy boost.

3) Blueberries - It's a superfood that kids often love - no utensils required.

4) Tuna and cracker pack - If you don't want to load up a bunch of sandwiches and have to worry about keeping them cold, this is a great alternative. The packs even come with a little spoon for spreading.

5) Honestly Cranberries - I was surprised to learn how much added sugar there is in packaged store-bought cranberries. This brand doesn't add extra sugar. It's a nice, natural snack.

6) Aqua Ball - For kids who just won't drink plain water, this drink doesn't have corn syrup or artificial sweeteners. Stevia Leaf Extract and a little natural flavor makes this appealing to kids without corn syrup that is loaded into a lot of juices.

7) Goldfish Crackers - Because who doesn't love this baked snack? Also easy for kids to grab on the go when they cannot be bothered with getting off the slide to take a lunch break.

8) Apple slices with peanut butter - Add a little protein without the need for refrigeration. Kids love to dip things, too, and apples are the ideally healthy dipping device.

9) Go Organically Fruit Snacks - I quit buying fruit snacks for my kids a while back because, well, they typically just are not healthy despite having the word "fruit" in them. Loaded with corn syrup and artificial flavors, they just were something I phased out. However, when I got some Go Organically fruit snacks to try out, I was glad to see it was something I could feel ok giving to my kids. They do have sugar, but it's organic cane sugar. That's what I always look for now on labels so that I can avoid corn syrup and artificial sweeteners like Splenda, Sweet & Low, etc. These are made with organic juices and puree blends and it really tasted good - not artificially over sweet. My kids were excited to taste test them and they were gone before I knew it.

10) Lorna Doone - Just because. I'm not a big cookie eater, but this is one that I can't resist. It's a good portable one for a picnic. No chocolate or chocolate chips to melt. No creme to ooze out. Just a good travel cookie.

So, pack up that basket and head out for a hike or a trip to the zoo or the park or the beach and stock up on these 10 recommendations that will help keep the kids full and happy on your excursion!

***Vicki's Granola, Aqua Ball, Go Organically Fruit Snacks and Honestly Cranberries were provided for purpose of a review. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.

Ginger Peach Iced Tea

I'm not much of a hot beverage kind of person, even in the winter. All year long, I enjoy iced tea...but especially on steamy summer days when you serve the glass loaded with ice and the outside of the glass covers with condensation. It's so refreshing.

Iced tea was our usual beverage when we were kids. Dad made instant Lipton tea every day and we had it with our meals. I've gotten away from the instant tea that dad favors and I also have cut down drastically on the sugar that I add (Dad actually encouraged me to do that..I was really hooked on very sweet tea for a while.) 

Sometimes in the summer I make sun tea. I used to go through a couple clear sun tea dispenser jars each summer. and I'd wear out the nozzles or they'd crack. Now I use my clear Pampered Chef gallon pitcher. I put in 4 or 5 tea bags and fill it with water and let it sit in the sun for an hour or two. Then I add sugar and I'm ready to go.

However, I learned last year a "recipe" for sweet tea. Sounded kind of strange to me as all I really knew was steeping tea in hot water for hot tea or making sun tea for iced tea (or dad's old instant method.) Somehow I never thought about steeping tea as if making a cup of hot tea and then adding ice to it. But, once I did it ,I realized how much better it tastes. So, here's my recipe for one of my favorite varieties of iced tea - Decaf Ginger Peach.

I keep my cabinet loaded with black tea bags and also with a variety of flavored tea bags and loose leaf teas. I'm very fond of The Republic of Tea and many of their great flavors.

3 black tea tea bags 
2 Republic of Tea Decaf Ginger Peach tea bags
2 cups boiling water (and additional cold water to fill pitcher)
1 cup sugar
1 gallon pitcher

So, when I have seen tea recipes, they call for 1 cup of sugar for 2 quarts. I use one cup of sugar for a gallon so it's not overly sweet.

Boil two cups of water. Steep bags in boiling water and add sugar and stir until dissolved. Pour into a one gallon pitcher and then add cold water to fill to top. Stir and enjoy. I sometimes like to add some fresh mint leaves to my glass, too. :)

Thursday, July 14, 2016

La Voute Celebrates Bastille Day and First Anniversary

About a year ago I attended a media preview event as the La Banque Hotel was about to open. We toured the newly renovated hotel, which previously housed a bank. It is stunning and I love the cool, creative touches of using elements of the former bank in the decorating. Inside La Banque is their bistro, La Voute, where we joined for a lunch feast to learn what would be on the menu.

La Banque is French for "the bank" and La Voute is French for "the vault." The dining room features the bank's original vault with a huge door signed by J. Edgar Hoover, then director of the FBI.

We enjoyed a lovely lunch at La Voute and the place is beyond impressive. There's nothing like it in the south suburbs and I'm so grateful that we can enjoy a fabulous French-inspired meal in such a beautiful setting without having to head into the city.

We sampled several appetizers, entrees and desserts on our visit, including the best scallops I have ever eaten in my life.

Here's the full press release (below) on the anniversary celebration, which coincides with Bastille Day. It's a great time to plan a visit if you haven't been there or to return for a new taste of France. Oh, and just a related bit of advice - I just re-posted on the Chicago Foodie Sister FB page today a review of My Life In France by Julia Child that I put on the blog after reading it a few summers ago. If you're looking for some summer reading, it's one of my very favorite books and fitting to read in tandem with a visit for Bastille Day.

P.S. The photos in this post are from the media preview I attended.

La Banque Hotel & La Voute Bistro and Bar Celebrates Anniversary 
Historic bank reinvented as luxury hotel with bistro dining in vault toasts
success with anniversary specials! 

(July 6, 2016)  Time to pop the champagne! La Banque Hotel and La Voute Bistro and Bar in the former Great Lakes Bank building in the heart of Homewood celebrates their one-year anniversary. A destination in its own right, La Voute Bistro & Bar is situated in a section of the bank that dates back to 1925 and includes the bank’s main vault. The vault provides a unique backdrop for the breakfast buffet; and a unique private dining experience for lunch or dinner. The focal point of the vault is the original massive pneumatic door that was inspected and signed by legendary former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. 
Starting on July 14th Bastille Day, the properties will have specials for guests to enjoy until July 20th!
  • July 14th- Bastille Day Celebration: The hotel and restaurant will be decorated in blue, white and red flags with sounds of French music from Maurice Chevalier and accordion player Edith Piaf all week. 
Blue, white and red macaroons desserts in each guest room for the week.  
Toasts of the special new cocktail menu that includes: French Connection Martini, French Kiss Martini, Bellini Martini, Kir Royal, and a celebratory Blue, White and Red Champagne Flight.  
This will also kick-off raffles for every day of the week that include prize package of La Banque Hotel stay, golf package at Ravisloe Country Club, French wine, and dinner and brunch for two guests at La Voute Bistro and Bar. 
The "Gold Bar" signature dessert
  • July 15th- A Real French Experience $32 includes 5 French wines to be paired with 5 French cheeses from 5-6 p.m. along with a special surprise dessert from Pastry Queen Erica.
  • July 17th- Sunday Champagne Brunch Special brunch with a hand-picked champagne selection with Kirs, Champagne flights from the bistro’s champagne bar. 
  • July 18th- Homewood social business lunch on the patio, $19 from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Drinks and passed appetizers for all Homewood business owners to celebrate our city’s growth and success! 
  • July 19th- Anniversary Wine and Dinner Pairing deals starting at $44 includes 5 course menu of Chicken Lemon Soup, Seared Scallop with Crunchy Turkey Bacon and a Split Pea Puree, a Roasted Pork Medallion with Mashed Potato and a Grain Mustard Sauce along with Baked Brie En Croute with a dessert of Milk Chocolate Pot de Creme’.  
  • July 20th- Half Off Our Most Popular Dinner Entrees at La Voute Bistro and Bar
  • July 21st- Grand Finale of La Voute Bistro and Bar Prime Rib Buffet – all you can eat- $42 with $5 martinis

Enjoy a Day of History and Beer at Milwaukee Firkin Fest

Milwaukee Firkin Fest is coming up! T's a must for beer lovers looking to head out for their next adventure. Another fun fest organized by Brewfest Partners, this popular beer celebration takes place in Cathedral Square Park on July 23 from 4 to 7:30 p.m. VIP early entry tickets have sold out, but you can still snag a general admission ticket.

First of all, if you have no idea what a firkin is, start by reading this. So, firkin fest is unique in that it's not just a fest where the beer is flowing from a variety of different brewers. This fest features naturally carbonated cask conditioned ales from in and around Milwaukee, as well as a few guest brewers. So, it's tasting galore through this retro method and a big history lesson to boot.

Listen to live music by the Squeezettes while you're there and grab a bite from local food vendors that will have specialties available for purchase. 

General admission is $49 (which includes unlimited 3 oz. pours in your commemorative pint glass) with designated driver tickets for $15, which gets you a commemorative glass and unlimited soda.  No one under age 21 will be admitted. Get your tickets at 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Johnson's Farm Produce

For several years our family has made a trip in the spring to go strawberry picking at Johnson's Farm Produce in Hobart. However, this year we just couldn't find the time to make it happen. I was in the area, though in the middle of June and stopped in. Lucky for me there were still fresh    strawberries just picked from the fields.

I found a table with buckets of strawberries. When I heard an employee say, "These were picked an hour ago," and "These are the very last for the season," I headed for the table. So did two other customers. One grabbed four buckets. As I was perusing the inventory (down to about 12 buckets at that point, another customer reached in front of me and took the buckets I was eyeing. At that point I just grabbed a bucket - they all looked and smelled awesome - and I made my way to the checkout.

The farm stand was loaded with beautiful produce - and I was totally digging the adorable chalkboard signs. :)

When I got to the checkout, the fresh cherries were staring me in the face and I couldn't resist.

The place was also loaded with beautiful flowers...huge overflowing baskets and planters, many of them buy 2, get 1 free. Sadly, I had my little car with a full trunk and it was pouring down rain, so I didn't bring any home, but I will definitely keep the place in mind next time I'm out in that direction or for next spring when it's time to get flowers.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Cozy Dog Drive In

I was introduced to the Cozy Dog Drive In probably 15 years ago when we decided to hit some spots along old Route 66 on a trip to St. Louis. It has a fun history and claims to be the place that introduced the corn dog to the the Midwest. The restaurant on Sixth Street in Springfield is somewhat of a historical museum to Route 66.

On this most recent stop, I just ordered a cup of ice cream to go since I had just had a horseshoe at D'Arcy's Pint. But, I couldn't leave Springfield without stopping at this foodie landmark. It's one of those places that you have to hit just to say you've been there - and that you've tried a cozy dog. The cozy dogs are pretty awesome - with a nice crunch on the outside - and the prices are very reasonable.

Cozy Dog Drive In
2935 So. Sixth Street
Springfield, IL

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Impromptu girl's lunch

So, last weekend, my husband and boys were out of town for the day and I asked my friend Michelle if she was free for lunch. We contemplated heading out a restaurant, but ended up deciding to chill on my patio and have a bite to eat.

She stopped by a little bit later and I started out planning to throw a salad together...and well, I just kept going. By the time she got here, we had:

chips and salsa
mini toast with quince and crumbled goat cheese
lettuce wraps with Havarti, tomato and radish
a platter of cherries, grapes, freshly picked strawberries from a local farm and raspberries picked from our yard, caramel roasted peanuts, cashews with sea salt and marcona almonds
quesadillas (three varieties: cheese, spinach and cheese and spinach, mushroom and cheese)
a salad with red leaf lettuce, red/yellow/green peppers, tomato, strawberries, candied pecans, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries and feta cheese
water infused with lemon, lime and orange
brownies with strawberry topped with chocolate sauce

She brought along some guacamole, more fruit, a tray of cookies and some wine, including this yummy Fizz 56 sparkling red wine. So much for the light lunch we had planned. :) But everything was good and so was the company - Michelle also brought her 20-year-old daughter, who just returned from studying in London. And I ended up with another little visitor - my son's friend's two-year-old daughter. So, while the house is usually full of boys and testosterone, it was a nice afternoon with more female company than I am used to.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Rainbow Wrap

I'm not a vegetarian. Not even close. I eat some kind of meat almost every day. But, I love veggies so much. I love them as side dishes and I love salads. And one day last week, I wasn't in the mood for a heavy lunch and didn't want the bread. And I happened to have some lovely heads of lettuce I picked up at the Dine-on-the-Land dinner at Locavore Farm in Grant Park, Il. recently. Everything at their dinner was sourced very locally. Since lettuce makes for an awesome veggie "sandwich" when used as a wrap, I was glad to have this fresh lettuce to use.

I sat next to one of the farming families at the dinner table at Locavore Farm - the owners of Five Hands Farm in nearby Lowell. After the dinner, you could purchase items from the farmers. I picked up some red leaf lettuce and radishes and I used both of them in this wrap. I also picked up some homemade jelly and some farm fresh eggs while I was there.

I called this a rainbow wrap because of all those vibrant colors.


3 large lettuce leaves
1 slice Havarti cheese
1/2 avocado, sliced
1/2 roma tomato, sliced
radishes, sliced
ranch dressing

Wash and lay out leaves. Divide cheese into three pieces and lay on top of lettuce leaves. Add avocado, tomato and radish. Squirt dots of ranch onto radishes. And you're done! Super easy. Super delicious. Super healthy. Super fresh.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Grilled chicken with havarti, avocado, radish

When we make a meal on the grill, we always make an overabundance so that there are leftovers. With hubby working 24-hour shifts at the firehouse, I am packing him two meals (sometimes three) each time he heads off for a shift, so it's good to have leftovers.

Last week my husband marinated some chicken breasts in a garlic and herb marinade, so I decided to have a chicken sandwich the next day for lunch. I warmed it up with a slice of Havarti, then topped it with sliced avocado, sliced radish, sliced tomato and lettuce with a little bit of dijon mustard. It was fantastic!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Wine Spectator Announces 2016 Restaurant Awards: 57 Chicago Restaurants Make List

Did your favorite Chicago restaurant make the list for Wine Spectator's 2016 Restaurant Awards? The list was just released and we see several spots we love on the list, like The Florentine, The Gage, Frontera Gril and Osteria La Madia.

A total of 3,595 restaurants in 50 states and 72 countries were honored with inclusion on this exclusive list. The complete list of winners is featured in Wine Spectator's August issue, on newsstands July 19. All the restaurants can also be found at and in the brand new free official Restaurant Awards app.

Wine Spectator is the world’s leading authority on wine, examining the world of wine from the vineyard to the table, exploring wine’s role in contemporary culture and delivering expert reviews of more than 18,000 wines each year. 

The Whole Shebang $10 deal at Timbrook Kitchens

There's this little tucked away cafe nearby that I love to stop in for a breakfast for lunch or to get some goodies to bring home for the family. On a recent stop when I intended to run in and grab a sandwich, I was reminded of the "Whole Shebang" special that is available every day for dine in our carryout for $10. I ordered the Whole Shebang and sat and enjoyed it for a bit and forgot about all the errands I had to run that had me frazzled.

For $10 you get:

two slices of savory pie or a sandwich
a salad, soup or side
a slice of dessert pie
a drink

It's a pretty sweet deal. I hopped over there when I saw the Cubano was on the menu. (If you don't follow on FB, be sure to do so to get updates on what's new each day.) Once I decided to go with the $10 special, I was going to get a side salad but then saw the bacon jam potato salad and switched to that. Glad I did. It was tasty. I got my usual for the dessert - a slice of peanut butter pie.

The place is a little foodie oasis on busy Ridge Road in Munster, Indiana, located directly across the street from the large Strack and Van Til grocery store in a little strip next to a tobacco shop. Walking inside you're greeted by smells and sights that will make you hungry for everything on the menu. A tray of pastries is usually out on the counter to tempt you. I always linger a little and talk food with the owner who loves to share his favorite spots to eat and hear about yours. And baseball. We always talk baseball. It's nice to hear a Cardinals fan admit to what a good season the Cubs are having. :) I look forward to gloating even more come October - it's been a long time coming. My dad also stops in there from time to time and they have a friendly little bet going that will result in one of them wearing a baseball cap of the rival team this fall.

We also had my sister's baby shower in this cozy cafe - there were about a dozen of us and it was intimate and fun, especially since I'm not the only foodie in the family.
Timbrook Kitchens
17 Ridge Road
Munster, IN

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Get $1 French Fries at Meatheads for National French Fry Day

I'll betcha didn't know there was a NATIONAL FRENCH FRY DAY! Well, you know now. I'll take any excuse  I can get to down some of these delicious potato snacks.

I don't know about you, but I'm a dipper. I love to dip my fries - and not necessarily in ketchup. I often dip them in barbecue sauce. I love to dip them in a thick cheese sauce.  I've been known to dip them in a milkshake or a blizzard. And...I love to dip them in sauces at Meatheads. On a few occasions recently, I've found myself approaching my nearest Meatheads and I couldn't help but pull in the drive-thru for an order of fries and a cup of the cucumber wasabi sauce. It's been my guilty pleasure this summer - even moreso than ice cream. I love the cajun fries there, too, which you might expect to be spicy, but really aren't. It adds a perfect bit of flavor.

So, on July 13, which is National Frech Fry Day, Meatheads is offering $1 bottomless fries (regular or cajun) for dine-in with purchase and $1 large fries for take-out with purchase.

They also have a nice menu of fresh burgers, awesome shakes and the most delicious chicken tenders (the secret is pickle brine!) For more info on Meatheads, visit and follow them on social media - FB, Twitter and Instagram. They have 17 locations in Chicagoland.

The Stuffed Pepper

Because I live in the south burbs just minutes from the Indiana border, I do a lot of shopping and dining there. In recent months, a new restaurant in Hammond had popped up in my FB feed with the most mouthwatering photos. I've had it in mind for a while and finally stopped for a visit with my dad last week.

While there are several "Greek" restaurants in the area with a long list of menu items, this one is the real deal and as authentic as if you visited Chicago's Greek Town - saganaki and all. Don't you just love to holler "Opa!" as a plate of flaming cheese is brought to your table?

We were there on a Friday when they introduced octopus as a special. The waitress said it was so popular that they sold out midday. Our meal started with skordalia, an appetizer made with finely chopped potato and garlic and dill and served with warm hand-made pitas. I was told that it's not served every day, but there's always some kind of appetizer brought to your table when you're seated. This one was a winner and I hope they're making it on the day I come for my next meal.

Next came the saganaki, something you just can't pass up. Even if you're not all that into cheese, the show of flames and the celebratory "Opa!" are all part of the experience. It's so delicious - slightly crunchy outside, gooey on the inside.

We had a hard time deciding when it came to the entree, but since we were already filling up on our appetizers, we decided to split a two-skewer dinner. It comes with choice of soup or salad and I had heard that the stuffed pepper soup was amazing, so I had to give it a try. The claims were right on. Good stuff, full of hearty veggies and rice and meat.

The entree choices included other Greek specialties and a nice selection of salads, sandwiches and seafood. There are many dishes I look forward to going back and trying.

The dinner came with your choice of meat on the skewers and we opted for pork and chicken, along with Greek oven potatoes, rice pilaf, Greek green beans, a wedge of feta and a slice of lemon. The meat was very flavorful, the rice was plentiful, the potatoes were super tender and the Greek green beans were a great accompaniment full of other veggies, as well. Being the lemon lover I am, I doused my meat and potatoes in lemon juice and enjoyed.

The Stuffed Pepper is located just north of I-80/94 on Indianapolis Blvd. - 7231 Indianapolis to be exact. Follow along on Facebook for photos and specials.