Monday, August 29, 2011

Clara's Pasta in Woodridge

Fettuccine Alfredo at Clara's Pasta

Clara's Pasta is a favorite neighborhood restaurant of mine. Their homemade noodles and sauces continuously surprise me when I visit. I like to bring a friend along so that I can try something different, because I have a huge gravitational pull towards the Fettuccine Alfredo that I must always order. Perhaps if I went more often, I could vary my menu- although this past time, I did make it a "Primavera Fettuccine Alfredo" (with veggies). If you're in the area, I highly recommend a stop in some time. I also hosted an afternoon wedding shower at Clara's in the past and it was very affordable and the food was great. Here are some pictures to tempt your taste buds. :)

Caprese Sandwich

Primavera Fettuccine ALfredo

Pasta with chicken

Lobster Bisque soup

Lemon Sorbet with a Pistachio cookie

Friday, August 26, 2011

A taste of belly-bustin' barbecue in Kentucky

Well, when you're traveling down south and you see this outside a little BBQ shack, you can probably expect some good stuff. This is what we first saw when we pulled up to Big Bubba Buck's Belly Bustin BBQ Bliss in Munfordville, Kentucky where they were cooking up some great barbecue.

And here's the rest of the place. It was recommended by a contact at the tourism bureau. As soon as I heard the name, I knew we'd have to make a stop. My husband is always on the hunt for good barbecue when we travel.

Here's a combo meal that included ribs, pulled pork, chicken (it was supposed to come with pork shoulder, but it was still cooking and we were on a tight schedule and didn't have time to wait for it so we substituted with chicken.) There's also cornbread, which in that area seemed to be more like pancakes than the bread-style or muffin-style cornbread we're used to and macaroni and cheese and peach cobbler for dessert. On the left was a side that I added of fried green ever!!!!

Everything was tasty! Sauce was flavorful, but not too spicy for me. I especially loved the pulled pork. And I am still dreaming about those fried green tomatoes.

Salsa leaves lots of room for creativity

Sometimes in preparing food, I get a little self-conscious. I'm afraid I'm not doing it right. But overall, cooking isn't something that's right or wrong. As long as you're pleased with the results and they're edible, not all is lost. I love to make fresh salsa, although I know mine is way off from the variety made in Latin American countries - or even served in Americanized Mexican restaurants, which usually has a lot of thin liquid, is spicy and is less chunky. However, I've come to look at salsa as I do soups. No two batches are the same. I add different ingredients in different quantities each time I make it.

I recently made a batch similar to our sister Jen's recipe - with sweet corn, black beans, kidney beans, fresh and seasoned canned tomatoes, green peppers, onion, lime juice, spices. It was really good and my neighbor, who is from Mexico and married to a Puerto Rican, raved about it and has since made it several times for her family. She calls it bean salad rather than salsa. Serve it up with some lime-flavored chips and it is delicious.

Another salsa I make that is very refreshing is pictured below. I use all fresh veggies from our garden or my father-in-laws. Lots of tomatoes, cucumbers and cilantro and whatever else is in the garden. Sometimes I use different kinds of peppers, chives, onions. I also use several varieties of tomatoes. We get most of our tomato plants from the Burpees catalog. I add some olive oil and spices - garlic salt or celery salt and sometimes some oregano or basil., which sometimes gives it more of a bruchetta topping taste. I also have to add that I'm a MILD salsa kind of gal, so no jalapenos in my salsas.

And as much as I love fresh salsa, I always keep some jarred salsa on hand because when you throw it in a crock pot with some chicken, it is INCREDIBLE. It makes the meat so moist and gives it a little flavor. Last year I bought some fruit salsas at a farm stand in Michigan. The apricot salsa chicken is amazing!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Meatloaf Bakery

Yesterday, my sister, Jen (another of our foodie sisters -- there are actually four Clark sisters) planned for us to go to the Cubs game. We are a family of die-hards and Jen has been a season ticket holder for years. Last night was Ron Santo night, when they honored the great (but yet to be Hall-of-Fame inductee) former Cubs third-baseman and radio announcer. He passed away last year following a battle with cancer and nearly lifelong battle with diabetes. He was being honored with a new statue of him being placed in front of the ballpark.

So, Jen invited me to go with her to the game since she's also a big Santo fan. A former foreign exchange student of hers, Rui, was visiting from Japan and it was her birthday, so she joined us. And at the last minute my dad also decided to tag along, so we had a fun night together with dinner plans in Lincoln Park before the game at Jen's favorite sushi place.

I remembered a place I'd written about earlier this year in a Foods article on meatloaf called The Meatloaf Bakery and since it was a block south from our dinner destination on Clark, I told my sis we had to stop in so I could get a taste and meet the owner, Cynthia. It ended up being our first stop of the day. We were all hungry and everything in the case looked amazing -- way too pretty to eat!

Can you believe all those pretty little things are meatloaves???

Each is topped with potatoes, stuffing, pasta or veggies. They're adorable!

This was called the "Loaf-A-Roma" with mozzarella, sun dried tomatoes, fresh basil and a splash of red wine mixed in to Italian sausage and beef. It's topped with angel hair pasta and served with marinara sauce. Looks magnificent...and tasted magnificent!!! When we were growing up and mom made a big pot of spaghetti, I was always the one who ate the meat and had a little pasta to go with it, so this suited my taste buds -- more meat than pasta. :)

Since we had dinner plans, we decided to try some "loafies," which are bite-size versions of their specialities. I tried the Loaf-A-Roma as well as the No Buns About It Burger Loaf, which was a mini-loaf burger with bacon, cheddar, onions, mustard, ketchup, pickles and beef and topped with cheesy taters and their special sauce. Just thinking about it is making me want to drive back up for more. It was delish!!! The other one I tried was A Wing And A Prayer Loaf, a hot and spicy wing sauce added to crumbled blue cheese, ground chicken and celery and topped with buttery blue cheese crust and served with ranch dressing. My dad liked it so much, he decided to get a full-size loaf and forego the sushi. He talked about the meatloaf ALL NIGHT -- about how tasty it was, how creative the names were and how it was the most brilliant food creation he'd ever come across.

Here's my loafies:

Here's what my sis tried:

The Loaf-A-Roma, the Mother Loaf (kinda like a classic meatloaf with onions, ketchup and seasoning topped with Yukon Smashers - which you can also get as a side dish) and the Herby Turkey Loaf. She said the Herby Turkey Loaf was her favorite and when I tried one I agreed. It was made with ground turkey and a blend of spices, garlic, red pepper, fresh herbs and dusted with aged Parmesan cheese. On top was white bread stuffing and cranberry.

I also tried a sampling of Chicken Shish Kaloaf, which was also superb. But then again, EVERYTHING we tried was superb. The side dishes looked wonderful and if we didn't have dinner plans elsewhere, we probably would have hung out for a long time and tried almost everything. In the case were also side dishes - A Veggie Table and  Greens and Things, which were soooo colorful!!! There's also three varieties of mashed potatoes that you can order in quantities of two. And there were woopie pies that looked so inviting for a chocoholic like me and which I totally would have devoured if we didn't also have dessert plans a few doors down at Molly's Cupcakes. Oh, and for the vegetarians, there was also a Yentl Lentyl Loaf, made with lentils, brown rice, veggies and cheese and topped with colorful bell peppers. Each loaf also comes with a unique sauce.

Check out the full menu on their website Also, The Meatloaf Bakery was featured on the Food Network series Sugar High earlier this week and it will re-run on September 9th at 9:30 Central Time. And here's the meatloaf article I wrote earlier this year for the Northwest Indiana Times/Shore Magazine that included the Meatloaf Bakery and includes a recipe from Cynthia -

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A down-home country breakfast

We took a trip last month to Kentucky and on the first night we stayed at a Charming Bed and Breakfast called Country Girl at Heart Farm in Munfordville (close to Horse Cave and Cave City in Kentucky's Cave Country.) The eco-friendly home was once an Amish farmhouse and guests have the opportunity to pitch in with farm chores like feeding horses, gathering eggs and gardening if they'd like. My kids were all over it. They had a ball gathering eggs and feeding carrots to the horses. At night, we had cookies and tea for a snack, the next morning we had a big breakfast that included the following:

Fresh fruit - including locally picked blueberries.

Chocolate chip pancakes, which my boys devoured.
There were also blueberry pancakes.

I think she told us this was apple chicken sausage? It was tasty.

Scrambled eggs, fresh from the farm.

This was my plate. I ate every bite. Then she brought out...

Homemade banana bread. I was too full to have any. I meant to ask for a piece to go and forgot. It looked and smelled delicious.

Great meal and great accomodations! If you're ever in the area or heading south through Kentucky from the Chicago area, consider spending some time there. It's not far of I-65, but far enough to feel like you're a world away.

Nelson's: Home of the best reuben ever

We spent this afternoon in Michigan, first stopping for lunch at Nelson's Saloon in Three Oaks. That's where we often stop to eat because I'm crazy about the Reuben sandwiches. It's nothing fancy...typical bar food, but believe me -- Best. Reuben. Ever.

P.S. It's husband and I shared one today. This was my half. :)

After lunch, we drove over to the next town, Galien, because they were having the annual Pioneer Days. We popped in to check out the tractor show and car show, then took a ride on a covered wagon. We had a few minutes to spare before the parade started, so we went in to Aidan's Place for ice cream cones. It opened in June, which we were happy to see since on our last trip through, the place looked completely deserted. It's a cute little place serving pizza, sandwiches and ice cream. The boys had scoops of blue moon. :) I tried a malt. Good stuff!

Birthday lunch...Olive Garden-style

For my birthday, Dad offered to take me out where ever I wanted to go. I pondered a few places - Red Lobster, The View, Don Pedro, Baker's Square, Cafe Borgia, Texas Roadhouse, but settled on Olive Garden. That's where I always take Dad for his birthday lunch and that's the only time I go since my husband doesn't care for it. Soup, salad and bread sticks sounded really yummy...and they were. :)

A dinoriffic party

My sister's kids recently had their birthday party - her son (3) and older daughter (6) share the same birthday - July 15 - and their sister (almost 5) follows in August. My sister recently had a dinosaur-themed party for them, so I had to share some pics of the treats. :)

Don't they look yummy?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Lynnie Ques

Lynnie Ques, with locations in Lansing and Thornton serves up flavorful, down-home barbecue. Meats include beef brisket, pulled pork, smoked ham, chicken, barbecue meatloaf, ribs and other entrees.

Sides include a scrumptious corn souffle, red beans and rice, PepperJack mac (which is awesome), green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole and marinated beets. Also on the menu are soups, chili and dessert. I actually haven't tried any of the meats beyond the pulled pork and sloppy joe. I love the pulled pork, so that's my usual. Sloppy joes are $1.50 each or 5 for $5, so it's a great, economical, on-the-go meal for the kids.

They also do catering and you can add trays of BBQ meatballs, deviled eggs, cabbage rolls or other appetizers. Stop by for a bite. If you're a fan of barbecue, Lynnie Ques will hit the spot.