Thursday, April 30, 2015

Family Run Hog Farm is Producer of Choice Pork

There’s something about a farm that is just so calming and relaxing. I had the opportunity to spend a recent Saturday with a group of fellow City Mom bloggers on a farm tour. The sun was shining brightly in a clear, blue sky as a cool breeze flowed across the fields. It was a serene scene as our bus pulled in for our visit to Gould Farms in Maple Park, Illinois.

Our introduction to pork production came from Chris Gould, a member of the third generation of Goulds to work at the breeding and farrowing facility that houses about 750 sows. He explained the size of their operation, the gestational timeline from inseminating to weaning and what types of food products result from their efforts.

Having toured a large scale pig farm last year, I had a bit of an understanding of the process of the pigs being artificially inseminated, giving birth in gestational crates and being kept in an indoor facility. While there are critics of the method in favor of hogs living a free-range environment, the benefits and advantages of such an operation are clear. An indoor climate-controlled environment creates cleaner, safer, less-stressed animals, which, in turn, leads to a better product. Many of the piglets born at their farm become tenderloin and other choice cuts.

With my previous pig farm tour being a big operation, I was pleasantly surprised that this one, which Gould's father, Eldon, described as a "medium sized" pig farm is a family operation and one in which the Goulds take great pride in. Over 3,000 acres of the farm are also used for growing corn, balance soybeans and wheat, as well. A fourth generation of the Gould family is now working there and everyone has their niche (i.e. Gould's sister is a veterinarian who helps to provide care to the animals and his mother works in the office tracking each sow and piglet on paper.)

The family was so welcoming and accommodating, opening their home to us, serving up homemade goodies after lunch and even giving us a parting gift of hand made soap using goat's milk from a neighboring farm. 

Although the day was all about pork and how it gets from a farm to our table - and everything in between - my biggest takeaway of the day was the notion that behind the food products we purchase in grocery stores, there are still family farms run by good people like the Goulds that are alive and well and thriving.

Chris Gould gives an overview of the family hog farm.

Dressed in our bio-hazard coverings to prevent contamination, the City Moms head for the breeding and farrowing barns.

A peaceful view of the Gould home.

The City Moms prepare to head in to get a first-hand look at a modern pig farm.

We learned more about boar semen than we ever wanted to know.

The piglets grow quite quickly as they nurse for the first two to three weeks before weaning.

A breeding specialist from Gould Farms brought a couple piglets out for the City Moms to see up close.

Amy snuggled with one of the piglets for a picture.

As we got our tour we were able to witness some piglets being born.

The average size of a litter of piglets at the farm is 15.

After our tour was a catered lunch of - you guessed it - pork! as well as a few presentations, including one from the Country Store & Catering in Sycamore on covering different cuts of pork, cooking tips and cooking methods.

From the inbox: Beats, Burgers and Beer events debut at Parts and Labor

As we head into a new month, the foodie scene is heating up -- as the weather should be soon! Take a peek at what's going on next month at Parts and Labor.

May Events

Parts and Labor: Beats, Burgers and Beers

CHICAGO - Logan Square’s premiere Barstaurant, Parts and Labor (2700 N. Milwaukee Ave) will feature local musicians this May as part of Beats, Burgers and Beers, a weekly event that showcases up and coming musicians by featuring a curated playlist.
Drink specials include $5 Old Milwaukee + a shot of whiskey. Also, $3 shots of Jameson are available daily at Parts and Labor. 
The event takes place every Thursday at 9:00PM. Please see below for a listing of current dates.
Thursday, May 7 with Grabbing Clouds
Thursday, May 14 with Deeper
Thursday, May 21 with Feeltrip
Thursday, May 28 with Noise FM
About Parts and Labor: Serving the classic griddle burger alongside a modern soda program, beers that run the gamut from cult favorite to craft, and a carefully curated spirit selection, Parts and Labor brings a taste of a Southside legacy to Logan Square. Russ Grant, owner and operator of Logan Square establishments Parts and Labor, Boiler Room and East Room was raised in the restaurant business. Grant’s father opened Wonderburger in 1954. With the opening in December of 2013, Grant aimed at paying respect to the family heritage. From the customer support and ongoing flattering press reviews it seems Grant has hit the mark. Featured as one of Thrillist’s Best New Chicago Bars of 2014. Follow Parts and Labor on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. For high-res images and more information please visit

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Back to Dragon Bowl

I've posted in the past on Dragon Bowl in Munster. It's a nice little place offering a variety of Chinese and Japanese dishes. Here's a few shots of our most recent colorful meal.

Pepper Steak

Orange chicken

Avocado salad
And when I placed the order over the phone I mentioned a coupon I had for a free order of egg rolls. I was told that it was an old coupon that was no longer accepted. "Would you like a free order of California rolls?" she asked. Umm....heck yeah! :) Love service like that.

Dragon Bowl

8231 Hohman
Munster, IN


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Dinner and beer at 18th Street Brewery

So, after leaving me behind for several "bro dates" I finally set a date for hubby to take me out to 18th Street Brewery in Gary's Miller neighborhood. I'd tried out their Sophomoric Saison (I really liked the citrus-y finish) at a recent media preview event for the Blue Chip Brewfest and was eager to visit and try some more.

The first I tried was the Hunter Cherry Double Milk Stout. I like stouts and I like beers with hints of fruit, so this rich brew in the Hunter series is one I would recommend.

I also tried a sample of the Sour Note, which initially made my lips pucker and move on to the next one, but it kind of stuck with me throughout the night and left me wanting to try more. I enjoyed the sample, but wasn't sure I'd want a whole glass, yet days later I was still craving a sip.

Next I moved on to the Barrel Aged Cockfight Farmhouse Ale - a smooth, earthy brew that I enjoyed with an awesome grilled cheese with arugula, tomato and bacon.

Next stop for the evening was New Oberfalz Brewing in Griffith, Indiana. Watch for an upcoming post on our visit there. (Here's a peek at my flight!)

Saturday, April 25, 2015

IHOP's Brioche French Toast returns for limited time

IHOP restaurants have brought back their popular Brioche French Toast to the menu for a limited time.  Chicago Foodie Sisters was invited to come out and give it a try, so I enjoyed breakfast with hubby at our local IHOP in Lansing this past week.

Returning is the Classic Bananas Foster Brioche French Toast, which is what I ordered. I love anything with bananas and this was one sweet treat. The toast was topped with sliced bananas caramelized in a buttery brown sugar glaze and topped with classic New Orleans Foster's sauce dusted with powdered sugar - an awesome combination of flavors and a generous portion that also came as a combo. For $6.99 I got not only the Classic Bananas Foster Brioche French Toast, but also eggs, hash browns and bacon. A $5.99 combo came with eggs and hash browns. The $7.99 ultimate combo came with 3 slices of bacon, 3 sausage links, eggs and hash browns.

It's quite a bargain when you add in the additional combo items.

Two other new flavors were introduced to the Brioche French Toast menu as well. The new Strawberry Creme Brioche French Toast features cool glazed strawberries with a brown sugar drizzle and dollop of sour creme.

Brioche is a thick, rich bread that originated in as a luxury item in France made with added eggs, butter and milk.

The new Caramel Apple Brioche French Toast is topped with sliced apples dried with a rich caramel sauce and served with warm vanilla sauce. This is what hubby ordered and it was fantastic. It almost made me long for fall when those tasty caramel apples on a stick are plentiful.

French toast has been on the menu at IHOP since 1958 and the Brioche French Toast was introduced for a limited time two years ago. Hurry in to try it out! The Brioche French Toast will only be around until May 31st!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Buffalo Bleu Cheese Chicken Dip

After seeing a few Buffalo Chicken pics come up in my Facebook feed today, I thought about Buffalo Chicken Dip. I tried to recall what was in the dip recipes I have seen in the past and I looked through the cabinets and fridge to see what I had on hand. This was the result and it was uber yummy! A nice warm dip to enjoy on a chilly night at home.

2 cups cooked, shredded chicken breast (I had some Market Day diced chicken breast that I had thawed sitting in my fridge)
3/4 cup of Frank's Original Red Hot Sauce (or a little more if you like it really hot)
1/2 cup bleu cheese
8 oz. cream cheese
4 oz. Trader Joe's Swiss and Gruyere shredded cheese
Ranch dressing

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine shredded chicken, hot sauce and bleu cheese in a bowl. Spread cream cheese onto a baking sheet or casserole dish. This was just for a quick snack and home. I'd definitely use a prettier baking dish if making it for a party.

Pour chicken mixture over cream cheese. Sprinkle shredded cheese blend over chicken. You could use any kind of shredded cheese here, but this Trader Joe's mix is one of my very favorites.

Bake for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and drizzle with ranch dressing.

Serve with tortilla chips or crackers or spread on crusty bread.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Nitro Milk Stout from Left Hand Brewing Co.

Craft beers have been growing on me in recent years. While at first I found most to be a bit too strong, too hoppy, too bitter for my taste, I've come to appreciate the differences in each individual product and the effort that goes into the craft. After having been to several beer fests and tasting events and sampling hundreds of different craft brews, I've come to learn which varieties I prefer and which brewers are more my style.

My husband is a craft beer fan, as well, and so I get introduced to new varieties as he tries them. He was actually ahead of the curve with the trend by crafting his own beer at home shortly after we got married - over 20 years ago. However, his attempts weren't all that tasty and he gave up. Now if only he could brew stuff at home like this favorite...

Nitro Milk Stout is his new favorite, made by Left Hand Brewing out of Colorado. I've become quite fond of it myself. I'd always shy away from stouts just because I assumed the dark color equated to extreme bitterness. That's in no way true and some stouts have great hints of chocolate, coffee, even strawberry and other flavors.

This has become a favorite not just because of the taste, but because hubby loves the art of pouring it and watching the process as it settles and foams. 

If you are a stout fan and haven't tried this out yet, it's pretty easy to find. Give it a try.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Lawry's Signature Steakhouse Marinade

While running through the grocery store last week, I figured I'd pick up some small steaks to make on the grill for dinner since the weather was warm and mild. I got some small round steaks. Then a couple aisles over as I grabbed some marinade for chicken, I noticed Lawry's Signature Steakhouse with Worcestershire sauce marinade. It was on sale, so so I thought I'd give it a try.

It's billed as one of their 30 minute marinades. Mine ended up marinating in the fridge for about 40 hours. When it was done it had a nice layer of flavor added. It is also recommended for burgers and it seems it would be a nice addition if you're looking for some added flavor. The marinade can get mixed in directly to the ground beef or brushed on as it grills.

***No compensation was received for this post and opinions are 100% my own. :)

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Miller Pizza Station

On visits to 18th Street Brewery with a buddy, my husband has ordered pizza from Miller Pizza Station, which is right across the tracks in Gary's Miller section and he would come home telling me how great this pizza was - and not even bring home a slice for me to try! For over 30 years they've been serving up pizza from their location on Lake Street.

I recently made it out to 18th Street Brewery with my husband and we ordered a sandwich at the brewery (previously no food was served there so many patrons would order the pizza to bring in and enjoy with their beer,) but since I'd heard how good the pizza was I couldn't head home without some. So, we ordered a pizza to go and I can see what all the full is about. It had a very crisp crust, which I love, fresh veggies, zesty sausage and mounds of gooey cheese.

Should you find your self in Northwest Indiana stop by 18th Street for a brew and grab some pizza from Miller Pizza Station!

Miller Pizza Station
622 S. Lake St.
Gary, IN
219- 938-7071

Friday, April 10, 2015

Blue Chip Brewfest is coming soon!

Time is running out to get your tickets for the Blue Chip Brewfest! This 5th annual event will include about 50 breweries offering over 250 different brews inside the Blue Chip Casino and in an expanded area with a climate-controlled tent.

I had a chance to sample some brews, meet some brewers and taste chef-prepared pairings at a recent media preview. Here's a peek at some of what you'll find at the fest! For more info and tickets, visit 

And a shot of some of the brewmasters!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Northwest Indiana introduces Savor the South Shore Restaurant Week

Chicago Restaurant Week is a big deal to foodies. It’s a stretch of days in the wintery slow season when some of the finest dining spots in the city offer special menus to entice new customers into their doors. Deep discounts allow diners to try out some great upscale spots that can be quite pricey when ordering from the regular menu. It’s also just a great time to peruse menus and find places you have never heard of.

Source: South Shore CVA

In Northwest Indiana, the first ever Savor the South Shore Restaurant Week is underway, lasting for two weeks. It began on April 6 and will run through April 19 with about 30 participating restaurants offering three-course prix fixe meals.

No matter your taste, you’ll find something on the list. It includes steakhouses, barbecue, Mexican, upscale Asian, Irish, a farm to fork experience and many others from casual to gourmet.

This list shows those who opted to participate as of April 2 and a handful more signed on after this list was put together. For a complete list and to see menus, go to

Participating restaurants include:

54 Main Bistro, Hobart
Asparagus, Merrillville
Bombers BBQ, Munster
Bub’s BBQ, DeMotte
Cabela’s Black Oak Grill, Hammond
Ciao Bella, Schererville
The Crown Town Grill, Crown Point
El Taco Real, Hammond
The Farmhouse Restaurant, Fair Oaks
Freddy’s Steakhouse, Hammond
Jack Binion’s Steakhouse, Hammond
Jordy N Jax BBQ, DeMotte
Lucrezia Ristorante, Crown Point and Chesterton
Mirage Grill, Merrillville
Miller Bakery Café, Gary
Sage Restaurant, Valparaiso
Spire Farm to Fork, La Porte
The Steakhouse @ Majestic Star Casino, Gary
Surefire, Valparaiso
Teibel’s, Schererville
T.J. Maloney’s Authentic Irish Pub, Merrillville
Timbrook Kitchens, Munster
Vaps Street Food, Valparaiso
Venice Italian Steakhouse, Dyer

White Rhino Bar & Grill, Dyer

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Easter buffet at Lansing Country Club

Probably every year since we got married, I have made a ham and a bunch of side dishes for Easter dinner. I often made desserts, too, and made colored eggs into deviled eggs. 

I'm married to a firefighter who in the 13 years he has been on the department has worked more than half of those Easter dates. So, the years that he worked on Easter, I'd usually make our big dinner the day before or sometimes the weekend before or after so that we could still celebrate and have a big meal together. Then I'd often spend Easter day with the kids at their grandparents or sometimes my sister's house while he worked.

So, this year Easter once again fell on my husband's shift day and when a friend, who is a member of the Lansing Country Club, mentioned that there would be a big Easter buffet that was open to the public, I figured I would take advantage of that and skip cooking that day. Then I realized that for the first time ever that my husband's work day fell on Easter he had the opportunity to take a vacation day that day (usually he doesn't have enough seniority to be off on the holidays, but miraculously one of the senior guys passed it over when the vacation requests went around!) So, my husband would actually get to be home for Easter.

I considered canceling reservations and going ahead with cooking a big meal at home, but really going somewhere where someone else would cook sounded really nice. So, I kept the reservation and we all went to the country club for Easter brunch. Whatever little twinge of guilt I had for not cooking disappeared when I took a look at the buffet and realized that brunch would be way better than anything I could have cooked at home.

Among the buffet choices were an omelet station, champagne fountain, bacon, sausage, corned beef hash, pancakes, french toast sticks, hash brown casserole, beef medallions (delicious!), perch, lemon shrimp (amazing!), ham, chicken, deviled eggs, a big salad bar, a huge dessert table and more. Prices were reasonable at $23.95 for adults and $12.95 for children ages 5 to 14.  

There are a few days a year that the club is open to the public for a brunch buffet. The next date will be the Mother's Day Buffet on May 10. Be sure to call and make your reservations - (708) 474-9102. They also open to the public on Tuesday nights for "Fiesta Night" and for the Friday night fish fry.