Friday, February 24, 2017

Saved by the Max (the Saved by the Bell-Themed Pop-up Restaurant)

Last night, the Chicago Foodie Sisters, Carrie and Becky, met for dinner at Saved by the Max... a Saved by the Bell-themed pop-up restaurant modeled after the diner from the popular television series that aired from 1989 to 1993.

Not only did we have a great nostalgia ride being in the diner, watching episodes of Saved by the Bell, remembering all the fashions of the 80s and 90s, but we also had a fantastic meal! Set up as a typical diner setting, you will be impressed and floored by the great food they dish out, along with enthusiastic and attentive service. We started with sharing two appetizers of their "Mac and Screech" (white cheddar, guyere and parmesan) and cauliflower in a honey and wine reduction sauce with just a hint of red pepper flakes, their "Spano's Seasonal Veggie." Both were so good that I'd have a hard time deciding between them in the future. We tried their "Tori's Fried Chicken"- deliciously crunchy with waffles, along with a "Senior Prom Salad" that was incredible - greens, pork belly, poached egg with a warm mustard viniagrette. We ended our meal with the delicious "Snack Attack" ice cream sundae, including Twinkie ice cream, vanilla wafers, topped with strawberries, strawberry feuilletine and whipped cream.

If you're a big fan of the show, the era for the nostalgia or just enjoy great food, head over to Saved by the Max before they end their pop-up run in Chicago, which has already been extended, but ends in May. They'll be going on a national tour, so it may come to a city near you!

The pop-up is open for dinner Wednesday through Sunday starting at 5 p.m. and reservations are HIGHLY recommended. Make reservations online at

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Ringer

I have fuzzy memories of making scrambled eggs in a cast iron pan as a kid and then it being a nightmare to wash by hand. I was about 10. I had no idea how to care for cast iron. I didn't know it had to be seasoned. Or that it needed a little oil rubbed on it before the eggs went in to prevent sticking. Or that you weren't supposed to use soap when you cleaned it.  And I'm pretty sure I used a Brillo pad on it - a big no-no. Yup, I really did a number on my mom's pan.

Now many years later, thanks to hubby's love of cast iron, I'm back to using it again - with a little better handle on how to use it and care for it. It can still get some stubborn stuff stuck on the bottom when cooking and then it's a little tricky to get it off. Usually some hot water does the trick, but when it doesn't I'm still wary of doing damage. So, I was excited to get an email with an offer to try out "The Ringer." It's a premium non-rusting stainless steel scrubber specifically for cast iron that is "tough on grit, gentle on seasoning."

The Ringer is made from machine soldered chainmail and is uber strong (the material was originally designed to help protect police from stab wounds.) The patented design makes it easier and quicker to clean cast iron with nothing more than hot water and because of its durable patented design, it should last a very long time.

I tried it out recently after I'd made some taco meat that got left on the high heat a little too long. The Ringer cleaned it out easily. I have always dreaded having to clean a dirty cast iron pan. For a long time it even prevented me from using cast iron. I love that I don't have to worry about stuck-on food anymore because all I need to do is a few passes with the Ringer and I'm done.

One other nice thing about this product is that you don't have to fear spreading bacteria as can happen with sponges. You can also throw it in the dishwasher to clean it.

The Ringer retails for $15 and can be ordered on Amazon.

***I did receive a complimentary product sample for the purpose of a review. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

From the Inbox: BenjYehuda Opens Today in Schaumburg

Here's some exciting news I discovered in my inbox. A new location of BenjYehuda is opening today...and they're offering a free side of soup or fries with any pita box through Feb. 28. Get in there and check it out!

BenjYehuda Expands into Suburbs with Fifth Location Opening in Schaumburg

Offering a complimentary side of fries or lentil soup with any pita or box purchase from 2/21-2/28/17 at Schaumburg location in celebration of Grand Opening

Schaumburg, IL (February 21, 2017) — After eight years in business with four successful restaurants in the city, BenjYehuda is expanding into the suburbs with its fifth location in Schaumburg opening TODAY - Tuesday, February, 21, 2017.

The 1,600 square foot restaurant can accommodate 35 customers, encouraging guests to bring their families along for the dine-in experience and local area workers to stop by during their lunch breaks. Lunch and dinner will be served seven days a week and a full catering menu will be available.

Customers can expect to find traditional Mediterranean favorites including falafel, shawarma, hummus, Baba Ganoush and more – with unlimited salad and garnish options. The husband-and-wife duo behind BenjYehuda’s eclectic menu make everything from scratch daily, incorporating Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavors.

“We have our own unique twist on traditional Mediterranean food, which has contributed to our loyal customer following in the city,” Benji Rosen, Owner of BenjYehuda, said. “After experiencing success with our four current locations, we knew it was time to take the plunge and establish a suburban footprint.”

The new restaurant will feature black and white decor, high ceilings and long tables that will accommodate large families. The location will have a clean and contemporary interior with an industrial vibe.

BenjYehuda will be opening its sixth location at the Allegro Hotel in Chicago’s Theater district at 171 W. Randolph in March 2017 (exact date TBD).

1020 N. Meecham Road, Schaumburg, IL 
Mondays-Saturdays 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. 
Sundays 11 a.m. - 8 p.m.

212 W. Van Buren, Chicago 
Weekdays 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.

10 S. LaSalle, Chicago
Weekdays 10:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.

500 W. Madison

Weekdays 10 a.m. - 8 p.m.

2485 N. Clark Chicago 
Daily 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. 

Website: Social Media: @benjyehuda

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Celebrate National Sticky Bun Day at Grand Lux Cafe

If it seems as if there's a food holiday for everything, you would be right - but, hey, why pass up any opportunity to eat good food? YOLO, so eat all the good food you can any chance you have. 

For instance, you may not have know that National Sticky Bun Day is coming up soon! In one week, on February 21, you have an official excuse to indulge and one fabulous place to do so is Grand Lux Cafe.

I recently visited with a friend to try the Warm Sticky Bun Bread Pudding for dessert and it absolutely melts in your mouth. It was served with whiskey sauce, sugared pecans and whipped cream. Those additions made it absolutely divine! Be sure to make your reservations to get there next week to try out this delicious dessert. 

Besides a magnificent menu, it offers beautiful views of the Magnificent Mile from its second floor location at Michigan and Ontario. Visit for more on their menu and other locations.

Monday, February 13, 2017

My current addiction: Albanese Malted Milk Balls

I recently was able to enjoy a bunch of goodies from Albanese Candy in a gift basket I had won as a prize. There was bridge mix, chocolate covered peanuts, gummy bears and more. I've tried a lot of items from Albanese, but never the malted milk balls. And now that I have, I want more. I ate that little bag almost all by myself over a couple days and I was very reluctant to share with the kids.

I was in a candy store recently and grabbed some malted milk balls but they didn't come close to these. So, now I'm looking at my calendar and trying to figure out when I can squeeze in a visit to their store because I just keep craving them.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Family visit to Hofbrauhaus

Hofbrau beer always makes me think of my late father-in-law. He grew up in Germany and immigrated here in his late teens. Even after he'd been here for decades he still spoke with a heavy accent. And he liked his German beer. It wasn't always easy to find Hofbrau in the Chicago area. I remember in the late 1980's making trips to the west suburbs - about a 45-minute drive to pick it up from a German deli and restaurant called the Heidelberg, which has since gone out of business.

When Hofbrauhaus opened, it was so nice to get a stein of it on tap, rather than from a bottle. My husband and I have been there several times, but the kids had never experienced it. So, when we were heading up to Rosemont for the outdoor show, we decided to hop over there lunch.

We ordered several different plates and enjoyed a family-style lunch with sausages and pork and my favorite German dish: weiner schnitzel. We enjoyed the entertainment and the Black Forest Cake for dessert - and a little beer, too.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Gourmet Gift Baskets has something for every Valentine

The clock's ticking away, but there's still time to get an order in for a special gift for that special someone. Got a guy on your list who is hard to buy for? has a number of beer buckets featuring craft beers or beers around the world. They also come with snacks that are a nice complimentary addition - things like sausage and cheese and crackers and popcorn.

My husband greatly enjoyed the Winter Seasonal Beer Bucket that I received from the company. The beer baskets actually come in a stainless steel bucket that you can use down the road for chilling your favorite beers.

Or for the wine lovers, there are baskets that have wine with well-paired snacks like chocolates and truffles.

Whatever your love enjoys, you'll find something for them. There are, of course, chocolate towers and Valentine baskets that are full of chocolates. However, you'll find baskets with cookies or coffee or fruit or breakfast mixes. You'll find baskets/packages with fun themes - bbq, football, Italian, tea, champagne. There are care packages specifically designed to go specifically to a college student or someone in the military.  Steak gift boxes can also be sent through the website. You'll find cheesecakes, giant cookies and almost anything you can think of that could possibly be covered chocolat.e Gluten-free options are also available. If you haven't checked out, you'll be surprised at all they offer. 

Also, at the time this posted a 10% offer was available using the code: HEARTS. Not sure how long its valid, so hurry up and take advantage of it and get that unforgettable gift on its way to your Valentine!

***I did receive product samples for the purpose of a review. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.

Dinner at the Hospitality and Tourism Management School at Purdue University Northwest

I don't remember how I first discovered the dining room at Purdue University Northwest's campus in Hammond, but I now refer to it as "the best kept foodie secret in Northwest Indiana." Under the direction of a well-trained chef, the students in hospitality and tourism management execute a gourmet dinner experience for several weeks during each semester on Wednesday evenings. Snagging a reservation can sometimes be as difficult as trying to win highly sought-after concert tickets from a radio station. But if you're persistent and able to get through, you can expect a great meal for an amazingly reasonable price. It's just $20 for a dinner that usually includes four courses (except for the semester finale, which is priced a little higher.)

Each semester I try to visit with my husband at least once. Here's a peek at our most recent dinner, which included a warm spinach, artichoke and parmesan dip, a roasted butternut squash bisque, a mixed green salad with buttermilk-garlic dressing, filet minion and dessert. For each dinner you have a choice of three entrees, one of which is meatless.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Beef Campanelle Soup

I have a new favorite pasta for my soups. After a few family members mentioned they didn't like noodles in their soup, I grabbed a couple different pasta shapes to use. I like noodles, but didn't realize that so much of the family doesn't. Sometimes I use rice, but it's been a while since I veered from noodles. There's really so much out there that you can substitute for noodles. I've tried a few others in the past and my favorite has been campanelle. It's substantial in size, so it reminds me of noodles and it fills up a lot of the pan (I prefer soups that are full of meats and veggies and pastas and don't have a ton of empty broth.)

So, I'm now on a campanelle kick. Here the recipe for this pot that I made recently:

6 beef bouillon cubes
12 cups water
1/2 diced green pepper
2 cans diced tomatoes
About 10 baby carrots, sliced
1 rib of celery, sliced
1/2 small onion
1 pound ground beef, browned
About 8 ounces campanelle pasta
To taste: Italian seasoning, black pepper

Bring water and bullion cubes to a boil and add sliced veggies and cans of tomatoes and seasonings. Cover and simmer 15 minutes or until veggies are soft. Add ground beef and pasta and boil about 12 more minutes (or recommend cooking time on pasta box) until pasta is fully cooked. Serve with some warm crusty bread! :)

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Enjoy the Final Days of All You Can Eat Pancakes

In response to pleas on social media last year, IHOP rang in the new year by bringing back "All You Can Eat Pancakes" for a limited time. But that time runs our this weekend. 

The "All You Can Eat Pancakes" offer runs through February 12. I visited my local IHOP to get a taste of pancakes and was happy to see that not only can you get a big stack for $5.99, but you can also get a combo for $6.99 that comes with eggs, hash browns and sausage, ham or hickory-smoked bacon (for $7.99 you can get sausage and bacon.) Guests can request additional short stacks of two buttermilk pancakes until they get their fill. For an additional charge you can add a fruit topping - or you can choose from four flavors of syrup available at your table.

Each time I am there I am surprised by what a generous amount you can get for a reasonable price. While I enjoyed the pancake combo, hubby got a mushroom and spinach omelet with a side of hash browns. Oh, and I had a hot chocolate that was delicious - with gobs of sweet whipped cream on top.

IHOP is the spot where you can always count on a good, hearty, consistent breakfast meal no matter what time of day the craving hits. Get in as soon as you can and get your fill of pancakes before the offer disappears.

Welch's Heart-Shaped Fruit Snacks are perfect classroom treats

Don't look now -- but the calendar is creeping closer and closer to Valentine's Day and you're running out of time to get those treats for your child's classroom Valentine's party. Remember how exciting that day was? You'd make a decorative pastel pouch or a shoebox-turned-mailbox to hold all the Valentine's greetings from your classmates. And your heart always fluttered a little faster when you got a Valentine with an edible treat attached.

These Welch's Mix Fruit Snacks come in little single serving packets and they're shaped like hearts, so they make a sweet and adorable treat - once that is fat free, gluten free, has no preservatives, is made with real fruit and provides a hefty dose of vitamin C with some Vitamins A & E as well. There's even a spot on each packet to add who it is to and who's it's from with a Sharpie.

***I received a product sample for the purpose of review. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Get GODIVA Chocolates for your sweetie this Valentine's Day

If you want to score some points with your significant other, chocolate is the way to go, especially if you give GODIVA's Fine Belgian Chocolates. GODIVA has several items available just for Valentine's Day, including the new themed Slices of Love collection. Inspired by French desserts, it comes in six flavors, including Strawberry Shortcake, Sacher Tore, Creme Brûlée, Paris-Brest, Lemon Cheesecake and Green Tea Chiffon Cake.

There's also a variety of heart-shaped boxes with classic chocolates, boxes and towers and the Gold Collection with your choice of ribbons. And don't forget that they have delectable chocolate covered strawberries.

I received samples of truffles and an assorted box of chocolates, which I am savoring (and hiding from my children.) Every bite is so creamy and the quality is so good, it's hard to decide which one to enjoy -- and then it's hard to stop enjoying more.

Be sure to head online to where you'll also find some good offers right now. You'll also find a store locator there to find a boutique near you where you can do some shopping.

***I did receive a product sample for purpose of a review. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.