Monday, April 30, 2012

Midnight snack

I'm a night owl. I'm rarely in bed before midnight. I just really enjoy that last bit of quiet at the end of the day after all the kids are in bed. I usually use that time to catch up on work and spend those final hours of the day and sit at my computer. I try not to eat that late at night, but I sometimes like a cup of tea...and sometimes a little bite of chocolate. My stop at a Polish store recently netted me some goodies - sausage, kraut, pierogi, bread. And I got these goodies for that late night snack, too. 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Schmaltz's Deli

I guess I have my family trained. My hubby and father-in-law were out in the Naperville area last week and decided to stop for lunch. My father-in-law mentioned a place he'd seen on television -- a Jewish deli. Took a bit for the name to come him, but soon they were there enjoying tasty corned beef sandwiches. When they got home, they told me about the place and my husband said, "I was mad I didn't have a camera with me. I wanted to take a picture for you." :) They know by now that had I been there, I would have gotten shots from at least three different angles before they'd be allowed to dig in. 

But, hubby got two pounds of corned beef to bring home. And he made one of these. :) Very good. The two also stopped at Misch Bros. in Calumet City on the way home and this Polish rye came from there.

Hubby did bring me a Schmaltz's menu. Here's some of what you can get there:

Herald Square: Turkey breast on multi grain tomato basil bread dressed with special low fat tomato basil pesto, may, lettuce and tomato

Grammercy Park: Warm pastrami, on marble rye smeared with spicy mustard

Sloppy Paul: Warm Corned beef on marble rye with Swiss cheese sauerkraut and Russian dressing

Bronx and Bleu: Hot pastrami, creamy Bleu cheese, lettuce and tomato on an onion roll.

Think I could handle a stop there myself sometime. :)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Dried tart cherries

Ok, the name was not appealing to me at all, but there was a sample plate out on the counter at the South Bend Chocolate Company. Dried tart cherries. I like cherries. I didn't think I'd like them dried or tart. But, there's a super sweet candy coating outside that makes those first two adjectives melt away. I tried them. I was pleased. Very pleased. :)

Taste of Poland

At a recent dentist appointment, I head my dentist talking to another patient about a Polish deli he'd discovered nearby. When he got in to see me I had to ask more. He directed me just down the road to Taste of Poland in Dyer. He told me there was a deli that had good Polish sausage and that there was also  an adjoining restaurant that served a buffet.

I don't have an ounce of Polish in me, but I enjoy a good pierogi, sausage and kraut as much as any Pollock. So, I didn't head into the restaurant, but I picked up some goodies in the deli and store -- sausage, sauerkraut w/bacon, meat pierogi.

And got some chocolate covered gingerbread cookies

And some bread

And not as good as the fresh, but put some pierogi in the freezer for a later time.

And I put these in the freezer, too. Can't read any of the label, but looks like lima beans, right? I love lima beans.

I told my dad about the place and he seemed eager to go try out the restaurant, so I'm hoping to head over there soon. Warsaw Inn in Lynwood is another buffet restaurant that has a good variety of Polish specialties. I haven't been there in ages.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Beauty in the banquet hall and beyond at St. George's

For over a decade I've been writing for a publication called Senior Life. Each month, I get from one to four assignments for articles related to people or places in Northwest Indiana. I frequently write for the Faith section of the paper and profile individuals who are active in their church.

Last weekend I had to go out to St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Schererville to photograph one of their church members. I entered through the banquet entrance for the Halls of St. George. I've never been to an event there, but it's a popular spot for wedding receptions. The exterior of the church is beautiful and the banquet hall is lovely, but once I got into the church my jaw dropped. Just thought I'd share some photos from the visit. Isn't it gorgeous?

And the menu for the banquet hall sounds pretty amazing. Take a look:

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Jimmy's Cafe

Was out in Valparaiso earlier this week. I've been hanging out in that area quite a bit the past year or so. I love it. I love the courthouse and the square and the Memorial Opera House and the shoppes and the university and the quaint B & B and the drive-in...and all the cafes and eateries, of course.

I was meeting up with some of the other cast members of Listen to Your Mother for a newspaper photo shoot. On May 10, I'll be part of an amazing show that is scheduled just before Mother's Day at the Memorial Opera House. It's a national production that will be in 10 cities this year. Here's the link If you live out that way, check it out...or if you live near one of the other cities where the show will take place, think about going with your mom or another mom in your life. I watched last year's show online and it was incredible.

Anyway, so on to the food. After the photos, I met up with my sweet friend, Christa, for lunch. We headed for a place called Silver Spoon, but it wasn't open, so we went on to Jimmy's Cafe. It's one of those nostalgic greasy-spoon diners that is open for breakfast and lunch. I couldn't decide if I wanted breakfast or, I got an omelet and soup combo for $6.25. Good deal. The soup was really good. It was lemon rice. I really like chicken lemon rice soup and wondered how I'd like it without the meat, but I didn't even miss it. It was perfect for the chilly day.

I got a ham and cheese omelet, but this was my friend's Denver omelet. 

And her daughter got chocolate chip pancakes that were GIGANTIC! Three of them!
I would definitely pop in there again for breakfast or lunch. Don't expect trendy menu items or upscale decor. This is diner food at it's best in a quaint little place that even seems a little stuck in time. I adore places like that.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The best beef in Chicago

I've probably posted before about my favorite beef sandwich. Yes, I've had Zel's and Portillo's and Andy's and Boz's and Italian beef sandwiches from many other places around Chicagoland, but my very favorite can only be found from April 'til September (or October if it's a good year.) In my opinion, the best Italian Beef Sandwich does not come from a restaurant or a roadside stand. It comes from Wrigley Field -- The Friendly Confines. All winter long I look forward to returning to the ball park in April for one of those awesome sandwiches.

On my visit during Opening weekend, we sat in the lower level and I set off to find a sandwich. Never expected to find much of a difference from one stand to the next, but this definitely wasn't like the sandwiches I usually get. It was dryer than usual and the peppers were a little crunchier than usual. If you want one, I'd recommend heading up to the upper deck and then heading straight behind home plate and under the press booth. I've never been a bit disappointed up there. It's perfect every time. And when I'm really hungry, I get the beef and sausage combo, which I didn't see at the stand I went to this time, but you're sure to find at the upper deck center spot. You actually pass the other food lines and go out onto a little patio and down a few stairs. So, if you don't know what you're looking for, it's a little tricky to find it. But it is SOOO worth it. Try it out if you head to a Cubs game this season. And let me know if you agree that it's the best beef in Chicago.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tomato Bread

This makes for a tasty snack!

Italian bread
Butter spread
Garlic salt
Tomato slices
Swiss cheese
Italian Seasoning

Spread butter on bread, sprinkle with garlic salt. Add tomato slices (I like to use the Roma variety), add cheese, sprinkle with Italian seasoning and put in a 350 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until cheese melt and bread is crisp.

Before going in the oven

And after

The world is just better covered in melted cheese, isn't it? :)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Easy crock pot pork

One of my favorite meals is about as easy as you can possibly get. Pork tenderloin in the crock pot with some barbecue sauce. I make mine a little on the dry side because not all my kids are crazy about barbecue sauce and you can always add more later. So, this was 2 lbs. pork tenderloin, half of a bottle of barbecue sauce - Sweet Baby Ray's is my favorite, and about a half up of water on the bottom. On low for 4 - 5 hours. Shreds perfectly. I put this on buns with sauce for a great pulled pork sandwich. :)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Dagwood Panini

Well, my husband is getting a little unimpressed with my panini experimentation. While I LOVE paninis, he doesn't really care for them. I know that. But I still keep making them. The other day, he asked if I could make him a "dagwood" - you know a sandwich piled high with lots of meat and cheese and veggies - so big that it's hard to fit it in your mouth. Well, he said "dagwood" and I thought to myself "dagwood panini." That's not quite what he was thinking. He always eats what I put in front on him without a fuss and is always grateful for what I make, but I could just see in his eyes that he was thinking, "Oh, dear God, why can't I just have a regular dagwood? I'm tired of that panini maker!" So, next time it's cold sandwich for him. But really? How could he not love this???

This one had chicken breast, ham, salami, American cheese, tomato, spinach, sliced eggplant and spicy mustard.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Sausage "as close to Misch Bros. as you can get"

I was at the dentist today waiting for him to come see me and heard him talking to another patient who was heading out. They were talking about Misch Bros. (Dr. Bona had an office in Calumet City many years ago not far from Misch Bros, which is known for their homemade Polish sausage.) He said he'd been to a new Polish deli nearby and had sausage that he compared to Misch Bros. and said was very good. So, I asked for more info. He gave me directions and I stopped there on my way home. I picked up some sausage to make at home.

And they also had hot food, so I got some sausage, kraut and noodles with bacon and meat perogi. I really wish they'd had potato periogi. That's my favorite variety. But these were pretty good, as well. Maybe they'll have the potato variety next time? I have a reason to go back. :)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Take me out to the ball game

Last week I went to my first Cubs game of the season. I'm a big baseball fan. And a MAJOR Cubs fan. Our sis, Jen, has had season tickets for a LONG time, so each year we get to occupy those seats of hers. Baseball games also mean good food! I'm not much of a hot dog eater, but I can't resist one when I go to a game. They taste so much better at the ball park than any where else. This year the price went up a little. It's now $5.25 if you catch one of the vendors walking by. If you do that, you don't have many options for toppings -- it's just ketchup, mustard and relish. You can, however, walk around to some of the food booths and find some that offer grilled onions, tomatoes and other condiments. This one was just fine with me -- even though it's not a Chicago dog. In fact, a lot of Chicagoans would probably throw tomatoes at me for this. Chicago-style hot dogs NEVER have ketchup on them.

My dad drove so I got to enjoy the view of our great city as I sat in the passenger seat along Lake Shore Drive. No matter how many times I'm in the city (I live in the south burbs), I never cease to be amazed at the beautiful architecture and the brilliant skyline.

That black building on the left is the John Hancock Center. As we drove by, my dad told me that he watched it being built in the 1960's when he worked for the IRS in an adjacent building. He said he watched them build it  floor by floor. At the time it was completed in 1968, it was the tallest building int the world outside New York City. It has a magnificent restaurant on the 95th floor with great views of the city.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Upgrade your salt

I was recently reading the book Real Moms Love to Eat by Beth Aldrich. She give tips, suggestions, plans, recipes to live a healthier life while enjoying your food more. One easy suggestion to make food more enjoyable is to upgrade your salt. I couldn't agree more. The difference in flavor between table salt and sea salt is incredible. At a local grocery chain in my area called Strack and Van Til, I've been buying New Zealand sea salt. Although it's $9.99 a pound, I can grab a container with a small quantity. This one was just $1.20. I've been using it a lot on vegetables and it's also great on popcorn!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Buffalo Chicken Nachos

I recently went to my first Tastefully Simple tasting party. I have ordered items in the past when friends have had parties, but this was the first time I actually got to try out a lot of the products. One that I loved was the Buffalo Blue Cheese Dip Mix. 

I made up a batch one night and served it up with some grilled chicken strips and cheese and had blue corn tortilla chips. There's a lot you could add it for a big hearty plate -- lettuce, tomato, corn, beans, peppers, guacamole. It's really good all on it's own, though, too. I was good and just had a few, because, know...dips and chips go right to the hips. But if they didn't, I could totally nosh on this for a full evening and polish off quite a bit. I'm sure it would be a popular platter at your next party. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Foil packets rock!

Lately I've been doing a bit of cooking on the grill. And I loved to make things on the grill in foil packets. Works great for most types of veggies. In this mix I had some mushrooms, zucchini, broccoli, red pepper and carrots with a little butter and some Italian seasoning. 

And here's what it looked like when it was all done served up with some salmon.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

What would you do for a Krispy Kreme?

I remember several years ago when a Krispy Kreme opened maybe 20 minutes from my home. I had tried the glazed variety a couple times when I bought them from fundraisers. I was excited to discover that there were a variety of flavors. The chocolate glazed are quite amazing.

A few years back when I was vice president of the Moms Club and would set up field trips for our group to go on, I set up a trip to the closest Krispy Kreme in Schererville for a tour. It was a fun time. They actually took our group through the back where there were doughnuts everywhere...running down lines, being doused with glaze, spread on cooling racks. At the end, everyone got a warm doughnut right out of the ovens. I miss that place! It's been gone a few years now, but I was recently out in the Midlothian area helping an elderly friend run her errands and we drove past Krispy Kreme. I couldn't resist. I had to make a stop! One for me and a dozen for the kids. :)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Panini perfection

I've gotten so hooked on paninis as of late, that I really have a hard time eating a cold sandwich anymore. Just not the same if the bread isn't warm and toasty and the cheese isn't melted. Here's a recent sandwich that was just grand:

Italian Bread
Black Pepper Turkey Breast
Swiss Cheese
Thinly-Sliced Eggplant
Italian Seasoning

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

BBQ Chicken Panini

If you've been following this blog for a while, you know that I'm CRAZY about my panini maker. The other day I still had a big loaf of Italian bread staring at me and was out of lunchmeat and kinda low on fresh this is what I did. I had a package of pre-cooked grilled chicken strips. Put them on the bread and covered them with Sweet Baby Ray's sauce, sprinkled with a little oregano and then topped with Muenster Cheese. It was fabulous!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wish the "after" cooking photo was a little prettier. It doesn't do it justice.

Monday, April 9, 2012

What's for dinner? Pasta and those round meat things

Ok, unless you have sons, you may not get this post. Well, if you have brothers, you may, too.

I have five sons. There are certain food words that just can't be said in my house without roars of laughter following. You know, like "nuts." 

It goes something like this. 
Me: "Do you want a brownie with nuts in it?"
12-year-old: Giggles. "Ha! You said nuts!" More giggles.
8-year-old: Giggles. "No, you said it!" More giggles.
10-year-old: Giggles. "Said what?"
8-year-old: "Nuts." 
10-year-old: Hysterical laughter. "Ha! You said nuts!"
17-year-old: "No, you said it."
It goes on like this for far too long. All over a simple little food word.

It's gotten so bad that I no longer refer to meatballs and "meatballs." They are round meat things. Why? I think you get the idea.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Pizza: Chicago-style

Ok, I know "Chicago-style" pizza usually refers to the pan-style deep dish pizza filled with gooey cheese and meat and veggies. But, there is another type of pizza that is distinctly "Chicago-style." While pepperoni is the most popular topping around much of the country, in Chicago, it's sausage that is the favorite topping -- yummy, well-seasoned, browned Italian sausage. Oh, it's sooo good. In my house, the kids go pepperoni, but I'm a Chicago girl all the way. Sausage for me!

By the way, the picture above is of a pizza from Jimmy K's in Lansing. Great pizza!!!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Meatloaf: Just like mom used to make

Meatloaf was on Mom's regular menu rotation during my childhood. I always thought mom's was the best. I tasted others, but none ever compared to Mom's. Once I grew up I was pleased to learn how easy it was. 

1 lb. ground beef
1 egg
About a cup of bread crumbs (I admit I don't really measure, just add them until it looks right)
Water (same thing, just add a little to moisten, no measuring)
1 envelope onion soup mix

Mix all ingredients well - EXCEPT the ketchup. After your loaf is mixed and shaped. Put in a loaf pan and cover top with ketchup. Bake about 45 - 50 minutes. 

The ketchup on top is my favorite part! I have experiment from time to time, adding other seasonings or green peppers. But, I seem to enjoy it best in this simple form. Just like Mom always made. And it was always served up with potatoes - usually mashed. Sometimes I switch it up and and serve it with buttered potatoes or fried potatoes. Good stuff! Mom would be proud.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Deviled eggs served up on a family heirloom

Deviled eggs have always been a family favorite. Our family get-togethers have to include a plate of deviled eggs or someone is sure to notice it is missing. Somehow I ended up with a wonderful family heirloom that makes it out for those family get-together where deviled eggs are served. It was passed down to me and used to belong to my father's mom, Vivian. It sits in my kitchen most of the time on a high shelf with the other priceless plates I've accumulated. 

A pink Depression glass bowl from my husband's maternal grandmother. 
A plate with a photo of the Brandenburg gate that was a wedding gift from my husband's German paternal grandmother and aunt. 
A handmade dish with Victorian ladies painted on it that was made by my Aunt Ramona. 
A relish dish, also from my paternal grandmother. 
And a flowered plate from my maternal grandmother. It's quite a collection. 

And I'm often afraid to use the plates for fear of breaking something so irreplaceable (only my husband's maternal grandmother is still living.) However, the deviled egg plate is the one piece that gets taken and used. A family get-together wouldn't be the same without it.

Popcorn, man's best friend and Svengoolie

Ok, in reading that title, do those sound like three things that go wonderfully together? Well, it kind of sums up Saturday night in our house. Here in Chicagoland, there's a television host named Svengoolie. Well, his name is Rich Koz, but he dresses up as this ghoulish looking guy for his show that airs on Saturday nights at 9 p.m. on WCIU. The majority of the movies are black and white classics staring Boris Karloff or other early horror stars. There are always odd creatures - like vampires or Frankenstein or blobs or ones that come from black lagoons. It's classic B movies every Saturday night. Svengoolie gets things started off and does little skits at commercial breaks. My husband has been watching Sven since he was a kid. And for the past couple years it has become our Saturday night tradition. A black and white classic. A bowl of popcorn. Milk and cookies. Lots of pillows and blankets and cuddling. Can't think of a better place I'd like to be on a Saturday night. 

Here's my youngest, Ian, and his buddy, Waffle, getting ready for Svengoolie Night.

Oh, and P.S. If you watch Glee, you may have seen the show where the group was at Regionals and one of the judges was called "Svengoobles." That character was based on WCIU's own Svengoolie. From what I understand, one of the producers of the show is from Chicago and grew up watching Sven so he incorporated the character based on watching Rich Koz as a child. Pretty cool, huh?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A brownie mix worth the $10 price tag

Brownies are my weakness. Any other type of sweet treat I can pass up easily - ice cream, cookies, cake, candy, cupcakes, pies. But when it comes to brownies, I will scarf them down like there's no tomorrow. And then probably lick the plate. And I'm not really picky. A box of $1.79 brownie mix from Aldi is what I usually use when I'm craving brownies. They are fudgy and bake perfectly and make a good base if you want to add extras, like nuts or sprinkles or chips or caramel. 

Recently, my friend, Erica, had a Dove Chocolate Discoveries party so I popped in to see what was in the catalog. My eyes fixed immediately on the Truffle Fudge brownie mix. I think one box was $12.99, but a two pack was $20. I figured there couldn't be any brownie that could justify a price of $10 for a box mix that made one 8 X 8 inch pan. I figured I may get 9 brownies out a little pan. That's $1.10 each for brownies you have to bake yourself!   I was very pleasantly surprised when I made them -- with a full stick of melted butter and some eggs -- that they were this awesome. In the mix was a pack of Dove chocolate chips that were soooo good they almost didn't make it into the batter.

Each piece really did taste like a piece of fudge. And because it's so rich, I cut them as small as I would a chunk of fudge and they went a long way. I'll never doubt the power of a Dove brownie mix again!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

My very favorite Pampered Chef product

I just got a brand new Pampered Chef pitcher. I'm excited. It's my very favorite product from the company. The pitcher has a built in stirrer that I love. This gallon-sized pitcher is my second one. The first one got dropped and the handle fell off. I'd had it many years and put it to good use. It had become my sun tea jar after I'd gone through several of them and worn out the nozzles of three in one summer. (We drink a lot of sun tea around here!) Since the pitcher is clear it works perfectly for making sun tea. Just add sugar and stir and it's ready to pour.

Monday, April 2, 2012

I love pretty salads

Salads are such a wonderful kaleidoscope of color. Or at least they can be. It just depends what you decide to add to it.

Red leaf lettuce
Green leaf lettuce
an assortment of grape and cherry tomatoes
fresh mozzarella
cucumber slices
And on the side...a mixed seed flatbread cracker.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Crock pot chicken and veggies

Some days, as much I'd love to spend a few hours in the kitchen making something complex, I just don't have the time. And what's better when you're short on time than making something in the crock pot? This colorful meal was so easy and loaded with flavor.

Crock Pot Chicken and Veggies

4 chicken breasts
1 1/2 TBSP Italian Seasoning
3 celery ribs
About 2 dozen baby carrots 
1 red pepper
1 orange pepper
1 yellow pepper
1/2 onion
Olive oil
2 cups spaghetti sauce

Cut all veggies into large chunks and lay in bottom of crock pot and cover with half the sauce. Place chicken on top of vegetables. Brush olive oil onto the top of each breast and sprinkle with seasoning. Add more sauce on top of chicken. Cook on high for 3 hours or low for 5 hours.