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  1. Chicago Gourmet 2015: The Ride of My Life

    September 28, 2015 by Barb


    Did you ever go to an amusement park as a kid? Do you remember that feeling of excitement and joy when you walk through the gate? How about the anticipation before you even get there? I think that sums up how I feel each year at Chicago Gourmet. (“Produced by the Illinois Restaurant Association, title sponsor Bon Appétit magazine and presenting sponsor Southern Wine & Spirits of Illinois, Chicago Gourmet 2015 is one of the nation’s largest and most celebrated culinary events. “)

    As I walked into Millennium Park this weekend, I had to just take a moment and gasp. It was like a wonderland of 150 of Chicagoland’s best chefs providing your taste buds the ride of their life.

    Like a good amusement park the key is to not think about anything, just enjoy the ride. Between the demonstrations, book signings and tastings there is so much to share.

    Today I want to concentrate on the main rides….the food. There were truly bites for every kind of food lover. You could be a novice and just learning to enjoy the thrill of this kind of ride or experienced enough to savor the adrenaline rush you can experience with phenomenal food. Either way, every bite came with their own twists and turns.

    With that said, I just looked at my pictures of food and thought I’d virtually share the food “ride” that Chicago Gourmet had to offer.  (I did a random gallery because I wouldn’t know how to pick my favorite!)

    So sit back and enjoy the ride! (Please do not look at when you are hungry or on a diet.  Keep your hands on your computer for the entire post.)


  2. Memories With a Twist

    September 24, 2015 by Barb


    Do you know how there is that thing? You know the thing that makes you ALWAYS think of someone else. It could be a cologne that the best smelling guy in college wore or an off the shoulder sweater your aunt liked. Maybe even the feel of a blanket that reminds you of your mom’s house.

    I started to think about this today because I bought a bag of limes and I thought of my dad. I don’t talk about him much in my posts because honestly we don’t talk. He isn’t a bad guy and I am far from a rotten daughter. There is no way to sugarcoat it; we just bring out the worst in each other.

    I’ve tried to get my mom to fess up that the reason Dad and I don’t get along is because I am a product of her torrid love affair with Leonard, the mailman. She hasn’t given in yet but I hope to get a confession one day! (Now that I gave away her secret, I’m sure she’ll stop talking to me too!)

    Anyhow, my dad liked to have a Coke with a slice of lime. I can’t remember a meal out where he didn’t order that as his drink. Like most kids do, I started to get my Coke the same way because I loved my dad so much. I wanted to be like him and do the things he did.  Over the years, the flavor grew on me. I’m not sure if it was the taste or maybe the memory…either way…lime equated to Dad.

    Besides the love of limes, there are other gifts my dad gave me. Life (unless it was Leonard)…that is a big one. My love of clothes and shoes is a dad thing. We have similar features and some mannerisms. The ability to make people laugh and be a good storyteller is Dad. My feeling of joy when eating an amazing meal is also from him. There are many other things…some good and some bad.

    There are things in life that can’t be repaired sort of like a carbonated drink that goes flat. You regret forgetting about the bottle and you pretend discarding it is no big deal. I know he thinks of me and I would never deny that I think of him. I wish he knew more about who I am as an adult and I guess there is still a lot I had to learn about him.

    I was making a lime soda tonight and my thoughts went to Dad. He and I are like a lime soda. There are parts that are sweet and bubbly and a couple parts that are icy and sour. Not everyone likes a lime soda but then there are others who cannot imagine their lives without one.

    So cheers to the things that give us memories even if it is with a bit of a twist! It gives us something to embrace when the real thing is not at our fingertips.IMG_0295

    Lime Soda for 1


    2 Tablespoons Simple Syrup*

    1.5-2 Tablespoons of FRESH lime juice

    1 cup club soda

    Lime slice



    *Simple Syrup is essentially sugar water. You cook equal amounts of sugar and water over medium heat. When the sugar is completely dissolved, remove it from the heat. Let is cool before using it in your drink. It will keep in your fridge for a couple of weeks.  I usually do 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water.

    In a tall glass, add 3-4 ice cubes.

    Add your 2 tablespoons of simple syrup.

    Add Lime juice. (I originally made it with 1.5 Tablespoons but then add a smidge more after I tasted it with the club soda. My thought is you can always add more limejuice, you don’t want to add more sugar because I learned from mom that sugar as poison.)

    Fill up your glass with club soda.

    Use a swizzle stick (or a butter knife or chop stick) and give it a good spin. Not too much because you want to keep some fizz.

    Add a lime twist and enjoy.

    It is always funny what comes to mind when I concoct something in the kitchen. It can be a song, a TV show or even a person. Any which way, it is nice way to be connected.









  3. Rebooted Pork Cutlets

    September 21, 2015 by Barb


    Did you ever watch the Jetsons as a kid (or adult)? It was a fascinating cartoon about life in the future. (Okay, maybe fascinating is stretching it but it truly was awesome Saturday morning entertainment when it was in syndication during the 1970’s.)

    Just in case you lived in a cave or had a mom who limited your cartoon viewing, it was the story of George Jetson and his family who live in the future. It essentially was the epitome of every sitcom produced in the 60’s….BUT IN A CARTOON!!! I was in my 30’s before I realized that every episode was like the Flintstone’s except IN THE FUTURE. (For some reason I am screaming the last part like Regis Philbin because that is how I feel like I need to emphasize my love of that show.)

    George was married to Jane. She seemed nothing like my mom so I thought she was a little unrelatable. She liked to shop and was kind of “society” lady. She was a homemaker but really only had to push a few buttons to get stuff done. (Jane also had a robot maid named Rosie but I’ll talk more on her in a bit.)

    George and Jane also had two kids, Judie and Elroy. They were typical TV kids with her being a boy crazy teenager and Elroy was the precocious little brother. (The younger sibling on TV was always the precocious, adorable one that people loved the most. Speaking from experience, I think that rings true in life too.)

    But Rosie was where the show was ingenious. Here you have a robot (in a apron) that essentially does it all. With laugh track timed out perfectly, Rosie would deliver one-liners that were showstoppers! (Or maybe Mom just told me to turn off the TV and the show continued, I’ll never know.)

    Rosie cleaned, gave sage advice and cooked like no one’s business!!!  (Seriously, what did Jane do?   She didn’t even WALK THE DOG. George did that on the treadmill!)

    I started thinking about Rosie today because sometimes I’m in the kitchen and feel like a robot. I go through a systematic routine after having my buttons pressed and pop out a result. (I also pop out fantastic one-liners!)

    There are just things I cook that I go through the motions and never really think about it. It is like I’ve been programmed to cook this way and have trouble rebooting my system. I know there are better ways but I just scoot about the kitchen with my apron on and ruffles on my collar. (Was I the only one who wondered why she didn’t have a blouse? It was just a bunch of buttons stuck to her metal surface. )

    Maybe Rosie just needed a new hard drive inserted. (I wonder if Ol’ George ever…you know…never mind.) Maybe she just needs an updated data pack for the kitchen so she could think outside of her metal box of a head.

    I read an article online about common mistakes when cooking cutlets. It was like I had a surge of new information to process. I felt my circuits overload and I almost shut down. I made so many of the mistakes this article discussed. All I kept thinking was that I could not compute!

    After a moment, I rebooted and read the article again. I am not Rosie. I don’t have to keep following my same routine. I’m not answering to Mr. J anymore, I’m going to try some and stop MAKING MISTAKES! (Still talking like Regis….don’t know whyBUT I AM.)

    New Age Pork Cutlets


    1 pound pork thin cut pork chops (I’ll explain this in a minute)

    ½ cup flour

    1/2 – ¾ cup panko crumbs, in a bowl

    1 egg

    1 lemon

    salt and pepper

    Olive oil

    Additional lemon halves that you char on the stove or grill


    1. Oven 325.
    2. Trim excess silverskin and fat off of pork chops and use your knife to put a couple of hashmarks in the meat. I used the thin cut chops for one reason alone…they were in the freezer!
    3. Use your favorite mallet and pound your meat! (Do not talk to your mom while you are pounding because she will ask you what you are doing and telling your mom that you are pounding meat sounds dirty and might get you grounded.) This should be somewhere between ¼ inch to ½ inch thick.
    4. Season pork BOTH SIDES and set aside.
    5. Zest your lemon into bowl of flour. Set aside.
    6. Juice the rest of the lemon into egg and beat.
    7. Dip each seasoned cutlet into the egg then flour/zest and then panko. Set aside. You will be cooking them in batches so you could start getting your pan ready as you finish coating them.
    8. Heat a sauté pan over medium/high heat and heat oil until it glistens. I used about a tablespoon per batch.
    9. I only cooked two at a time. It took about 2 minutes per side and then I put them in an oven safe dish in the preheated oven. On the first side, I watched the side of the cutlet. You can see the infusion of heat and how fast the cutlet is cooking.
    10. Finish all your cutlets and serve with the charred lemon halves. (Don’t skip charring the lemon halves. It adds a nice flavor to the cutlet!)

    I think the future has a lot to offer but I’ll have to remember to reboot my own robot every now and then so my meals get better.






  4. Stuck in the Honey Tree

    September 14, 2015 by Barb

    I woke up this morning knowing that I wanted to write a post but I truthfully had no desire to write about food. I was SUPPOSED to be writing today about two events that I had scheduled to go to in Chicago, Mod Mex (A Beyond Chicago Gourmet Event) and Oyster Fest (by Shaw’s Crah House.) I wasn’t feeling well last week so I had to make the decision to just drop out of life, not go to events and rest.

    During my restful moments, my mind kept going to one thing. I feel like Winnie the Pooh stuck in a “hunny” tree. Like Winnie the Pooh, I constantly want food. It doesn’t matter who I’m with or what we are doing, my thoughts are what will be our food options and when will we eat.

    I have a rumbly in my tumbly that distracts me from almost everything. Sometimes the rumbly is my hunger other times it is the pain of Crohn’s Disease hitting me like I’ve just eaten a handful of bees. But like Winnie the Pooh, I will do everything I can to make it go away.

    There are days I try to climb the honey tree, I fall and get stuck. I feel the stinging of the queen bee in my behind and just want it to stop. It scares me in a way I’ve never been scared before.

    Getting unstuck sometimes takes time. It isn’t always a quick fix of being pushed and pulled in different directions. It is a process that sometimes involves leaning on other people.

    I could probably assign my friends and family different Winnie the Pooh characters and how they interact in my life. I have the bouncy fun-fun-fun-fun Tigger friends who make you look forward to living and a few Eeyore friends who have clouds over their heads and maybe aren’t the best cheerleaders.

    There are the caretakers like Kanga is to Roo and a Rabbit who seems to avoid me if my tummy in anyway interferes with their plans.

    I keep a couple of Owls around me to share their wisdom and, of course, my Christopher Robin who gets me out of the trickiest situations.

    My Piglet friends seem to be the best ones because they are just happy to be by my side and enjoy the simple things that life gives us.

    So as much as I felt sad this past weekend about missing out on some amazing honey, I know that there are some bigger pots of honey in my future. I will get myself unstuck and look forward to my adventures in my own 100-Acre Woods.

  5. Tomato Jam in a BLT World

    September 8, 2015 by Barb


    I can’t believe Labor Day is over. OVER!!!!!!!! Did you barbeque or spend some time outside? Did you just enjoy the extra day off in your workweek? We’ve done the same thing for the past seventeen years…..we celebrate our anniversary.

    There are some years we go away and others we just go out for a nice dinner. We have little traditions like me giving him the same card EVERY year and he is awesome at remembering to get me flowers. (There are other traditions but my mom said I am still grounded from this post on zucchini the other day so I’m not going to push it.)

    This year was unlike any anniversary we’ve had before….we spent it at a family reunion….for his father’s side of the family. Hmmmm. Should this even be a consideration?

    In this case, YES. This side of a family is like a BLT, everyone loves them.

    I’ll say the bacon of this part of the family sandwich is my husband’s great aunt. She is the best part of the sandwich everyone looks forward to and can’t get enough of. She has welcomed me with open arms from the first day I met her and I am fortunate that she treats me like one of her own grandchildren.

    The tomatoes on this sandwich have to be the daughters of Earl’s great aunt. There are four of them. (Just the right amount of tomato slices if you ask me!) I’ve gotten to know them over the years individually and am constantly amazed at the support they have given me. They are the folks who make you feel like you don’t marry just the man but you marry the family.

    All of the cousins are the lettuce. Like the lettuce you can choose for your sandwich, they come in different shapes, sizes and varieties. I have my favorite lettuces that always will be on my sandwich but every reunion I seem to be adding more green to my sandwich. (Sometimes when we get together it is better to “lettuce” alone because I think their mom’s (the tomatoes) would ground them too if they heard our conversations!)

    I’ll make my husband’s immediate family that I see/talk to the most the mayonnaise. They are essential to the sandwich too and add their own level of zest and complexity. (But remember, too much mayo isn’t good for anyone!)

    The bread would obviously be my husband because if I didn’t have him…I wouldn’t have a sandwich. I’d just have a bunch of stuff on a plate. The ingredients on my plate are awesome but I’m glad to have had him be the base of my BLT.

    So where do I fit into this entire sandwich? I think I am some tomato jam smeared on the bread. I’m not a necessary component and no one would notice that the jam was missing. I am the thing that gets on the sandwich that adds a little something different and unexpected. Some people have loved the jam for 17 years; others are just getting their first taste. (I am sure there are some who want to put me back on the shelf.)

    I like being the tomato jam. I can be sticky, sweet and have some zing. I can be a bright note or a sour tang. I am grateful to the people who like the variety I add to the sandwich and am okay with those who may want a little less. I am just happy to be in the sandwich.

    Tomato Jam


    1 1/2 pounds ripe roma tomatoes, cored, peeled and diced

    1/2 cup finely diced shallot

    3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

    1/3 cup honey

    1/2 teaspoon sea salt


    Combine the tomatoes, onion, lemon juice, basil, honey and salt in nonreactive saucepan.

    Bring to a simmer.

    Once simmering, adjust the heat on the stove to keep the tomatoes simmering until the mixture becomes thick and jammy. (Mine took about 90 minutes but I checked it every 15 minutes.)

    Taste and adjust seasonings, as you like. Let cool. Serve at room temperature.  Need to put the extras into the fridge.

    I use tomato jam in addition to tomatoes on my BLT’s. I like to put a light layer and then serve some on the side…. because sometimes people don’t want as much tomato jam as you want to offer.

  6. The First Chicago Food + Wine Festival

    August 30, 2015 by Barb


    I am a subscriber to Food & Wine magazine and read it each month from cover to cover. I read the editorials, recipes and I look at who advertises in the publication.

    One of the things that has drove me nuts for years was seeing the promotions for their Food + Wine Festivals. They would have these awesome chef-centric and food gatherings everywhere….South Beach, New York, Cancun, Nashville to name a few places.  But what about Chicago?????

    I would look at all the pictures of the people eating, drinking and being merry. I want to be merry. I want to toss my head back laughing while I have a tiny plate in my hand and drinking. (Okay, I only drink water so the tiny plate is all I’m concerned about!)

    The good folks of Food & Wine must have realized that the city of Chicago was ready to show them a good time because this weekend (August 28-30) they held the first Chicago Food + Wine Festival. Here was the scoop:

    The Chicago Food + Wine Festival marks a compelling collaboration between C3 Presents, chef Tim Love, and presenting sponsor FOOD & WINE Magazine.

    Festival partners have recruited an Advisory Board comprised of Chicago chefs including Jimmy Bannos (Heaven on Seven, The Purple Pig, Juicy-O); Rick Bayless (Frontera Grill, Topolobampo, Xoco, Tortas Frontera); Graham Elliot (Graham Elliot Bistro); Jose Garces (Garces Group); Stephanie Izard (Girl & The Goat, The Little Goat); Paul Kahan (One Off Hospitality Group); Tony Mantuano (Spiaggia); and Art Smith (Art and Soul, Table Fifty-Two, Lyfe Kitchen, Southern Art) to gather ideas and feedback for event programming and talent recommendations.”

    The weekend filled festival had a little something for everyone from a Feast Under the Stars (Fri. night) in Lincoln Park to a Toast & Taste (Sat. night) in Grant Park to a Last Call (past my bedtime on Sat.) at Block 37.

    The other big feature of the weekend was the actual Chicago Food + Wine Festival (both Sat. & Sun. in beautiful Lincoln Park). It was a day filled with demos by some of Chicago’s and the nation’s best chefs….plus wine and libation experts.

    Did I forget to mention The Grand Tasting? It was a gigantic tent filled with chefs making scrumptious food (and lots of things to drink from whisky to wine.)

    The best part is that I got to take part in the Saturday daytime portion! (This is the point you can imagine me tossing my head back in pure merriment!)

    As I walked through the gate, I felt like someone jumping from the pages of Food & Wine magazine. My nose directed me to the Grand Tasting and I’ll let my pictures take it from there.

    Earl’s Kitchen +Bar (not my Earl, another Earl) served a Tuna Tostada with chili rubbed albacore, cilantro aioli, and avocado and jicama slawIMG_0220

    Knife & Tine’s smoked beef Carpaccio, parsnip puree on pumpernickel toast.IMG_0229

    One of the main reasons I wanted to come to this festival was to watch the chef demonstrations. The first one I caught was Chef Jose Garces & Chef Cory Morris (Rural Society). Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who wanted to do this because it was a packed tent! Chef Garces whipped out a gigantic squid like he was in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.IMG_0243

    And yes, I had to take pictures with the chefs!IMG_0249 IMG_0250

    I did miss seeing Tony and Cathy Mantuano’s demo on How to Pick the Right One so I popped over to the Book Signing area when they were done to tell them how much I liked their book, Wine Bar Food.


    I was hungry again so I hit The Grand Tasting once more. RPM Italian was my next stop and had Burro Del Chianti. I’ll just say this was essentially pork butter and it was fabulous. It was rich, luscious and amazing. (Head back, laughing moment!)IMG_0241

    After eating that little guilty pleasure I felt the need to green it up so La Sirena’s Kale salad with pepitas, cojita, jalapeno, green onion and roasted poblano dressing was a great option.IMG_0257

    A10 Hyde Park also freshened me up with their Shrimp Gazpacho made with watermelon, corn and black beans. Oh…and these beautiful tomatoes!IMG_0264

    Truly, my favorite sweet bite was Nico Osteria’s Pistachio profiteroles with white chocolate discs.IMG_0231

    The Florentine kept it fun by smearing Sweet Corn with lemon truffle aioli and sprinkling on a magic mix of pecorino, pancetta and shaved truffles on a stick! (This is Food + Wine Festival so it is a skewer but either way it was time for me to sit down and watch a demo.)IMG_0238 IMG_0240

    And before I forget, THANK YOU to Voss Water. It is always nice at events like this to have a delicious bottle of water with your little plates of food.

    I also caught Stephanie Izard’s demo called Duck Duck Goat. Here we come! Chef Stephanie is opening another restaurant in Chicago that will concentrate on Chinese Food!

    Having seen her do cooking demos in the past, I am always amazed at her talent. (And for whatever reason, I geek out when I talk to her.) She made Chinese Slap Noodles and Dumplings. It was really hysterical listening to her talk about “slapping her noodle” and not think dirty thoughts.
    It smelled absolutely delicious and I appreciate the fact that she said she would share some recipes on her website!IMG_0245

    I had room for a couple more bites before I went to my final demo. Chef Takashi of Slurping Turtle was one of “save the best for last” moments. I’m not sure how he did it but Chef Takashi made a Chawanmushi (which is a Japanese egg custard) topped with BBQ unagi and bacon. I was so impressed that he served so many while keeping the custard in perfect composition. Not an easy feat at a food festival!IMG_0260

    Chef Takashi CFWFEST

    I actually said “While your tea steeps, may I take a picture with you.” Such a nice guy!!!

    As my day slowed down I enjoyed a piece of crostini with lamb and pureed eggplant from the super friendly, Chef John Hogan (River Roast)IMG_0226

    And ended my savory eating with Chef Paul Virant’s fresh melon wrapped in pork and topped with a pickled watermelon rind and cherry bomb pepper relish! It was the bite that gave every taste bud a hug.IMG_0262

    I didn’t leave yet because I had to see one last demo from Chef Tim Love. I was so excited that he was in Chicago and have enjoyed reading about him and seeing him on TV shows in the past. IMG_0269

    It was a truly a great finale for MY day to see Chef Love teach the skill behind “burning food” like steaks, onions, oranges, carrots and zucchini. (I also learned that he likes tequila and owes a couple bucks to the swear jar!) The science nerd in me was impressed that he talked about the correlations of the temperature of food and the energy put into cooking it. (If he had included specific heat information I would have been over the edge!)


    Be careful you smash your food….it may fly off the stage!


    It was pure and utter madness and Ioved every second of it. I knew he would put on a good “show” and I was not disappointed. (I’m also not disappointed that I was not chosen for Tequila Roulette because 10 audience members were blindfolded. 9 of these member got a shot of hooch , 1 of them got olive oil. I would have wanted the olive oil!!)IMG_0271


    A new chef for my wall!!!

    There were so many demos, discussions and dishes that it was impossible to do everything.  But with that said, the only thing that dampened the day was the rain.  As the event closed for the afternoon, there were people dancing to the phenomenal DJ, enjoying some last little nibbles, having a drink and tossing their heads back in laughter.  (Sunday had a whole another day of fun!)

    Thank you to all the chefs who lugged their stuff in during the earlier morning downpour and the people behind the scenes. You made a gloomy day brighter!

    So next month when my Food & Wine magazine comes in the mail, I may look at the promotions first. When I see the pics for the next fests in Hawaii and Toronto, I am going to bust out smiling with the hope that they will be back in Chicago next year so we all can share in the fun!


  7. His Wish is My Command….Sometimes

    August 27, 2015 by Barb


    Did you hear me the other day? At the top of my lungs, I was screaming “You want to do what?” After all these years later, Hubby has finally lost it.

    It all started when he came home from work. His routine is to walk in the door and start telling me about his day while he takes off his work clothes. (It is kind like Mr. Rogers but instead of putting on a nice cardigan, he pulls off his pants.)

    So my sweetie walks in and says the thing no wife wants to hear the minute her husband walks through the door. I’m not even sure I can repeat this. (My mom needs to stop reading here or I may never be able to look her in the eye again.)

    He said, “Hey Baby, you wanna stuff my zucchini?” I was like “Whaaaat?” Who says that? Can I get a “hello”? Or how about “I’m glad I’m home” from him first. Nope, he just waltzes in and says that!!

    I immediately jump down his throat and start telling him how I’m not some tart who goes for lines like that! (Anymore!) I’m a grown woman and I want to be wooed.

    Well, he glares at me and looks down. Boom! I showed him. This woman is about to sing about R-E-S-P-E-C-T when my innocent husband produces a bag of…well…produce.

    Not just any produce…..zucchini. Oh no. I’m in troubbbble! Apparently, one of his coworkers sent him home with some zucchini and said they were the perfect size to stuff with meat for dinner.

    With my tail between my legs, I agreed and we made stuffed zucchini together. (Okay, I was still in mean girl mode and said if you want stuffed zucchini you need to help make it! I have trouble letting stuff go even when I’m wrong!)

    He was a great helper! (I really don’t like help in my kitchen. He drives me nuts and keeps trying to touch my, um, tomatoes.) The great part was that he picked the menu and it was nice to get a break from menu planning. (I still think he should have put his pants on before we started cooking!)

    Hoisin Glazed Stuffed Zucchini


    4 small zucchini or 2 larger ones

    1 pound ground chicken

    1Tbsp of fresh ginger

    1 pound shitake mushrooms, chopped

    1 clove of garlic, chopped

    3 Tbsp of soy sauce

    3 Tbsp rice wine vinegar

    1 egg, beaten

    4 green onions, sliced

    ¼ – ½ cup of hoisin sauce

    Toasted sesame oil.

    Grapeseed oil


    Oven 375. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.

    Cut the zucchini lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Brush the cut side of zucchini with sesame oil and place it CUT SIDE down on parchment.

    Roast for about 15-20 minutes. You want the cut side to start to brown and the zucchini should be getting tender. (Obviously, if you are using a HUGE zucchini it will take longer. Just take a peek and let it go longer if you need to.)

    While the zucchini is cooking, mix garlic, ginger, soy and rice wine vinegar. Set aside.

    Heat up a large skillet over medium high heat. Give it a swirl of grapeseed oil.

    Brown chicken and mushrooms together.

    Deglaze the pan with the soy mixture. Remove from heat and let cool for a minute or two.

    Mix in beaten egg. Mix in green onion.

    Ding. Your zucchini is ready to be stuffed. Flip the zucchini over and divide the meat mixture between the zucchini. Cook for another 15 minutes.

    Brush with hoisin and put it back in the oven for 5 more minutes.


    Here is my big hint….if you are a veggie lover….use a bigger zucchini. You will get more veggie per bite. I would have liked a smaller, thinner zucchini so that every bite had equal amounts of zucchini to chicken.


    Marriage misunderstandings are the best.

  8. Eggplant…Nice or Nefarious

    August 25, 2015 by Barb


    Nefarious. Nefarious? I know I have heard that word before but I wasn’t positive of the meaning. There is a commercial on television that uses that word.

    Kudos to an advertising group that uses words with more than three syllables! It was kind of refreshing for me to hear a word and have to look it up.   (I should edit that to a word I need to look up that isn’t slang!)

    I recorded the commercial and couldn’t tell what the word meant. Why I thought this was an easier method than looking it up is beyond me. I watched the commercial about 2 15 times and gave up. (Tenacity is another great word!)

    It is an adjective that means being infamous for being wicked. Hmmmm, who would I describe as a nefarious person? My brain is coming up with people that are so unrelated. Well kind of related. It is killing me to not insert a mother in law joke here. Does that make ME the nefarious one?

    Can you describe a food as nefarious? I think food can be nefarious but I think there would be some discussion on what should be on the list. I’ve heard of everything from grape gum to eggplants being nefarious.

    I understand the grape gum. My mom couldn’t stand the smell so if we ever did get our hands on it, she would wince. I think it conditioned me to think grape gum causes Mom pain. Don’t chew nefarious grape gum. (This is the point where I typed nefarious enough times that it is in my vocabulary.)

    But eggplant??? I don’t think it is nefarious!!! That is crazy!! (Crazy like my train of thought today!) I think the reason it sometimes gets a bad rap is because of the bitterness if not prepared correctly.

    So here are a few hints (and an awesome recipe) that will take your eggplant from nefarious to nummy (Did I just type nummy?)

    1. To peel or not to peel? It depends on your eggplant and cooking method. If you are grilling it….leave the skin on. Eggplant gets silky when cooked and the skin will help keep it all together. Certain varieties (like Japanese or Chinese) have very thin skins and taste pretty good. When in doubt, peel off alternating strips.
    2. Salt, friend or foe? FRIEND!!! After you cut your eggplant, salt it generously and let it sit for an hour. The salt helps pull out some of the liquid that makes eggplant bitter. In addition, the salt sort of collapses the flesh so it won’t absorb all of your oil in one swoop.
    3. Speaking of absorption…..when stir-frying or frying…..make sure you oil is hot and that you don’t over crowd your pan. You want the eggplant to get some rich brown colors on it so you may want to do it in batches. If you cook it all at once, odds are it will steam and not caramelize.
    4. Go all the way! Make sure you cook it until it is done. It should be soft and smooth. Ovens, grills and stoves all vary so follow your recipe but use your best judgment on finish times. (And for goodness sakes, taste it!)

    I learned to love eggplant the way most people do….eggplant Parmesan. (Have I blogged on that?)  But my new favorite is as simple as roasting it with a little miso glaze. It gets nice and creamy but still has a little roasty hint to it. The miso adds that extra oomph or umami that makes my mouth water.

    Miso Glazed Eggplant


    5 Japanese eggplants (long-thin-purple)

    ¼ cup yellow miso paste (look in your International aisles or near the tofu)

    ¼ cup of mirin (sweet cooking white wine)

    2 Tbsp white sugar


    Green onion


    Oven 375. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment.

    Cut the eggplants lengthwise. I salted it lightly and let them sit for a minute.

    Lay them on the baking sheet cut side down and roast about 20 minutes. It should be fork tender and a nice light brown.

    While the eggplants are cooking, mix miso paste, mirin and sugar in a microwave safe bowl. Nuke it for 30 seconds, stir, repeat until sugar is dissolved. It will be kind of thick, like a good barbeque sauce.

    Ding. Eggplants are almost done so pull them out of the oven. Flip them over on the sheet so the brown, cut side is up..

    Using a spoon, drop a dollop of sauce on each piece and spread it with the back of the spoon.

    Put them back in the oven for another 10 minutes. The miso will be the color of good brown mustard when it is done and the eggplant will be nice and soft.

    Sprinkle with green onion and prepare to amaze!

    Hopefully after you read this post, you’ll start to stick up for eggplant so it no longer has such a vile reputation. (Or maybe you just learned a new word like I did!)






  9. Roasted Roma Tomato Soup

    August 21, 2015 by Barb


    I will have to apologize to all my anti-gardening, tomato hating readers. I think the next couple blogs are going to be tomato-centric.

    When I planted my garden this year, I went a little bananas on tomatoes. (I would not recommend actual bananas on tomatoes. Besides the fact that I really despise bananas, that combination sounds dreadful.)

    I started my plants indoors from seed and went a little overboard. I kept thinking my plants seeds weren’t going to take. I decided that if I planted 28 plants, I’d lose about half. I was really, really wrong. I think I only lost about 5. (Actually that number should be smaller because I pitched 2 plants into a compost pile and now I have more plants!)

    Then I decided that the heavy rain this spring would cause me to lose some plants. Nope. Did you know that rain makes things grow? I think they teach that in Gardening 101. I must have missed that part.

    Other things I chose to ignore was spacing my tomatoes. I like how all the plants look all bushed together so I just planted all willy-nilly. (Willy-nilly is not a gardening term either but given my ignorance on rain, I don’t think anyone is using me for a reference!)

    So after a very wet start to the growing season and a lot of nice days of sunshine and warmth, I have one heck of a tomato garden. I love going out and seeing the bursts of red and yellow beaming out at me.

    It is like they are saying “Farmer Barb, thank you for putting so much love into us. We will grow big and keep your belly full for the remainder of the summer.” (No one really ever calls me Farmer Barb but if I lived in a world where tomatoes could talk that would be my moniker.)

    Currently, I pick about 5-6 pounds a night. I roast baking sheets constantly and am excited that I will have my tomatoes this winter. Some of the pans I roast don’t make it very far because I seem to eat them as fast as nature is growing them.IMG_0160

    The best thing I’ve made so far is a roasted tomato soup. (It was featured underneath the frico in my last blog.) It simply was roasted tomatoes, broth, a sprinkle of your favorite Italian seasoning, fresh basil and a little salt. I ate the entire batch myself and will probably make more in the next week. (PS If you put a frico on hot tomato soup, crack it with your spoon like you are eating a crème brûlée. It will be a whole new experience!)

    It was the best tomato soup you’ll ever taste or my name isn’t Farmer Barb!

    Roasted Roma Tomato Soup


    4 pounds roma tomatoes

    Italian seasoning

    Sea salt

    6-8 cups vegetable broth

    ¼ fresh basil, finely chopped


    Oven 375. Prepare 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut your tomatoes lengthwise and place on cookie sheet cut side up.

    Sprinkle with a little salt and Italian seasoning. You don’t want to put a lot of seasoning on because it will end up tasting like spaghetti sauce. (Not that there is anything wrong with that.)

    Roast for about 1.5 hours. The bottoms of the tomatoes should be a browning and the tomatoes will release some juice. (Check on them every 30 minutes.)


    In a blender or food processor, puree the tomatoes in batches. If they aren’t getting smooth enough, add a little of your broth.

    Once the tomatoes are fully chopped and smooth, add them to a large soup pot. (I used my 5 quart and it was perfect.)

    I added 6 cups of the veggie broth and let simmer for about 30-45 minutes, stirring frequently. If it thickens up too much for your taste, add a little more broth.

    Right before serving, I sprinkled in the basil and took a taste. An extra grind of salt and it was perfect.

    I don’t see an end to my tomato days in the near future and I’m good with that. Growing my tomatoes from seed this year has given me more joy than I could have ever imagined. I hope to do it all again next year!

  10. I’m a Super Frico

    August 17, 2015 by Barb


    Do you ever get a song in your head and sing it whenever you are doing a mundane task? It could be a song theme, something from the radio or maybe commercial jingle.

    My song lately has been one that isn’t one I can explain…Super Freak by Rick James. Do you know the song or at least part of the song?

    She’s a very kinky girl,

    The kind you don’t take home to mother

    She will never let your spirits down,

    Once you get her off the street.

    (Part of the chorus:) She’s all right, she’s all right

    That girl’s all right with me yeah.

    She’s a super freak, super freak,

    She’s super freaky, super freak, super freaky

    I not only sing it, I do some wicked dance moves as I vacuum, empty the dishwasher and make the bed. There is a lot of arm pumping, clapping and something that resembles a super sexy pelvic thrust.

    Well, maybe that is an exaggeration. I saw myself in the mirror dancing the other day and it looks more like I am trying to get my undies unwedged from my fanny with no hands. I am sure there is someone out there (like a prisoner who hasn’t seen a woman in 38 years) who would find it enticing.

    The funny thing is I’m not a super freak. I’m not a very kinky girl (unless wearing undies that ride up is kinky). I am the kind of girl you want to take home to your mom. (I make an awesome first impression.) I guess I do keep your spirits up but I see no reason I am on the street. (Is the super freak girl a hooker? Is that why she is kinky and your mom doesn’t like her? I never thought of that before.  If any hookers read my blog, let me know your thoughts.)

    I was searching my brain on why this particular song was in my head and then it came to me…..I’ve been making “fricos” lately.

    I’m sure you have seen a frico before…they are crispy little rounds of melted cheese. A lot of restaurants like to use them as garnishes on salads and appetizers. You can make them in rounds, cups or little tubes. They really are quite versatile. (Ooooo, I could have made a wedding dress out of fricos and really been super freaky on my wedding night! Nom. Nom.)

    People love fricos because they are lacy looking, a little crunchy and taste like cheese. (And really, what doesn’t taste better than cheese!?)

    I love it because a nuttiness (and I know about nuttiness) comes out of the cheese when it gets cooked. Think of a corner piece on a lasagna….there is always the couple of corners that get a little browner than the rest of the lasagna and taste awesome!!!

    Here are a couple of keys to a super frico success….

    Use a high quality Parmesan cheese. (I’ve never made it with anything but parm but I am going to experiment.)

    Finely grate it. Super fine.

    Don’t make your mounds too big.  They should look like this.IMG_0166

    Make sure you check on it frequently as it is baking.

    Cook it on parchment paper.

    When it starts to smell, nutty…they are just about done.

    If you are going to shape it, do it immediately as they come out of the oven.

    If you aren’t going to shape them, let them cool on a baking rack or paper towels. Don’t leave them on the hot pan or they will just get soggy.

    Make sure as you bake them, you sing Super Freak and dance around the kitchen. Pump your arms in the air and slap your butt because that is the only way to make them super frico-y.



    1 cup of Parmesan cheese, finely grated.


    Oven 375. Prepare baking sheets (3) with parchment paper.

    Make little mounds (about 1 Tbsp each). I was able to fit about 6 on sheet.

    Press down lightly so the cheese spreads but is not compacted.

    Set timer for 5 minutes. Take a peek. You want to stop them from cooking when they just start to turn light brown. Keep checking on them every minute or so. Mine took exactly 7 minutes per pan.

    IMG_0167Pull them out of the oven and glide the sheet of parchment off of the pan.

    Form into desired shape (Place on a rolling pin or bottle to make a little tube or the bottom of a ramekin to make a little cup.) I just let mine cool and be flat little circles.

    I’m sure Rick James would have loved seeing a Midwestern housewife singing his song will cooking cheese. He would be saying “She’s all right. That girl’s all right….she’s superfreaky.”