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  1. Nando’s PERi-PERi is FINALLY in Chicago

    May 21, 2015 by Barb


    Chicken. Spicy Chicken. Those are words that make my mouth water. Now add the name Nando’s PERi-PERi Chicken to those words and I’m asking “Where? Where?”

    Have you eaten at Nando’s PERi-PERi before? Nando’s PERi-PERi is known across the world for making delicious African Portuguese chicken. (When I say worldwide, I’m not kidding. There are around 1200 restaurants everywhere around the globe.)

    Luckily, Nando’s PERi-PERi will be opening 3 new restaurants in Chicagoland. (West Loop, 953 W. Randolph, opened this week, Lakeview, 670 W. Diversey Parkway, will open this summer and Lincoln Park, 1500 N. Clybourn Avenue, is due to open in September.)

    Now what is so special about THEIR chicken? (Make sure you read more of the story of how Nando’s PERi-PERi was started…. centuries ago.) It is all about the fusion of Portuguese open flamed grilling and the uniqueness of the spice. PERi-PERi is another name for the African Bird’s Eye Chili. Is it spicy? Yes. Will you still like this chicken if you aren’t a spice-aholic? FOR SURE!IMG_9703

    Here is why…. Nando’s PERi-PERi has a myriad of marinades that they use to introduce flavor to their birds. (All chicken is marinated for 24 hours so the taste isn’t just on the outside; it gets deep inside of the meat.)

    When you come in and order your chicken you can choose your level of spice. The “PERi”ometer gives you the option of plain (it still has some spice), Lemon Herb or Mango Lime (a little seasoning with a burst of brightness), medium (a little spicier) and HOT (Hot is hot. You don’t have to sign a waiver to eat it but you might want to order some extra sides to cool your mouth off.)IMG_9689

    Did I say sides? They truly have something for everyone but you have to try the Macho Peas. (If for no other reason to eat something with the word macho in it!) These bright peas were mashed whole peas with parsley, mint and chili. The color alone made these appetizing but the flavor of the mint with the peas was just outstanding!!


    Medium marinade, Macho Peas & Portuguese Rice

    I also was a fan of the creamy coleslaw. (I’ll confess I needed coleslaw to cool off my mouth. There are bottles of the different sauces available so you can add a little heat to your mild chicken if you want or in my case I dipped my fries into hot sauce…over and over again.)

    Chicken Caesar Wrap with Creamy Coleslaw and "PERi" Chips (Fries)

    Chicken Caesar Wrap with Creamy Coleslaw and “PERi” Chips (Fries)

    Nando’s PERi-PERi also has other fun options on the menu like wraps, salads, sandwiches and even some vegetarian items. (Now that I have friends who roll this way, I look for these things on a menu.)

    Mixed salad greens with peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, feta cheese and olives.

    Mixed salad greens with peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, feta cheese and olives.

    And while you wait for your chicken, try some of their Bites and Shareables. The hummus with PERi-PERi was outstanding. (But don’t drizzle on the sauce…you gotta dump it on the hummus!)


    Now Nando’s PERi-PERi is probably in the category of counter service casual. (You get your table, order your food and a delightful host will bring it out to you.) The nice thing is that the atmosphere in the restaurant is so much fun.

    I go to Nando’s PERi-PERi for the chicken but honestly I would hang out there just for the art. Each unique restaurant has one of the most expansive collections of South African contemporary art in the world. Each restaurant has different installations. (At the end of this post, I’m including some extra photos of some of the different art pieces Nando’s has in their restaurants.)

    I would love to know the backstory to this piece.

    I would love to know the backstory to this piece.

    It is the kind of restaurant that wakes up every one of your senses….you smell the wonderful aroma of the open flame cooking the chicken, you hear lively Portuguese music that makes you want to dance in your seat, you see beautiful pieces of artwork, you touch the unique different reclaimed wood and brick that adorn the dining room and you get to taste some astonishing flavorful food.

    Check out the gorgeous back patio.

    Check out the gorgeous back patio.

    I, personally, am thrilled that Nando’s PERi-PERi is roosting in Chicagoland because I had tried them years ago in DC. It was one of those restaurants that I had always wished were closer to home. (Here are some other locations.)

    Another thing is that if you don’t have time to sit and enjoy your meal, they make it super easy to order online so you can pick up and go.

    Let me know what you think because I think Nando’s PERi-PERi has chicken with “hen”sane flavor that might just knock you off your roost! (Thank you for the great lunch and for hosting the fundraiser for After School Matters. It was fun to participate and donate to such a great cause!)

    Please enjoy the following art photos that Nando’s PERi-PERi provided to me so I could share some of this amazing artwork with my readers!

    _annapolis _annapolis3 _bethesda2 _oldtown _tenleytown _towson2 _woodbridge


  2. Ramping Up My Spring Dinners

    May 19, 2015 by Barb


    This last week has definitely felt like spring to me. I wake up to the birds chirping happy melodies, the trees are displaying every shade of green and the sun just seems to be brighter. I can open a window and smell the freshness only a spring breeze can provide and the temperature is neither hot nor cold. It makes me want to run through a field with wildflowers in my hair except that I don’t run so I’ll mosey through a field with wildflowers. (Unless it is buggy, I’m not a fan of bugs.)

    Another spring awakening also occurs in the food world. Things like asparagus, peas, radishes and ramps seem to be at their tastiest this time of year.

    Ramps? You aren’t familiar with ramps? Ramps or Wild Leeks (which is what I sometimes have to do if I do actually run outdoors) are usually only available during the months of March and June. They resemble a scallion in build but have purpley lower stems and round leaves on top. (They are like the pretty cousin in the family that you want to hate but you love because they make you so happy!)

    Make sure you rinse them very well because they hold onto dirt like a leek.

    Make sure you rinse them very well because they hold onto dirt like a leek.

    In our area, ramps are not found very easily in the grocery stores. You can find them at some farmer’s markets, forage from the wild or buy off of a guy’s truck in the fire station’s parking lot. (It is amazing how many things are sold in that parking lot!)

    I was at a specialty grocery store the other day and found an abundance of beautiful ramps!!! I bought 4 bunches knowing that they were a treasure. I got them hold and had a weird Lord of the Rings moment and caressed them and called them “my precious.” (Being married to a nerd for 16 years does make you do things like this.)

    My problem now is what to do…what to do. They seem to embody the best qualities of both onions and garlic. Mmmmm. My mouth is watering at the options.

    I decided for this batch I’m going to do two different things. I will pickle the lower white/purple parts so I can savor these babies later in the year. (And I love any excuse to pull out my canning supplies.)

    With the pretty green tops, I decided that they screamed for pesto. (Actually when I looked up recipes all of the pesto ones looked the most delicious.) I found a recipe on Bon Appétit that seemed to be just what I was looking for.

    Below is how I made it just a little different just because I didn’t have the same ingredients in house and flavors I tend to like better.

    In the end, it turned out to be one of the best pesto sauces I’ve ever had! The only problem is that I am not going to be able to make it all year round. (Unless I can successfully freeze some too.)

    For those of you who want to give your taste buds a thrill, keep a lookout now because I truly think this is the recipe that will ramp up your spring dinners!

    Ramp Pesto Linguine (Based off Bon Appétit’s recipe)


    • 4 ounces ramps, just the greens
    • 3 ramp bulbs
    • 12 ounces linguine
    • ¼ cup toasted almonds
    • ⅓ cup olive oil
    • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan (Parmigiano-Reggiano)
    • Lemon wedges, for serving


    Prepare an ice bath, set aside.

    In a large pot of boiling salted water, blanch the greens for about 10-15 seconds. Use a slotted spoon and immediately put the greens in the ice bath. Drain and squeeze out extra liquid.

    In the same water you used to blanch the greens, cook your linguine. When you drain the pasta, reserve about 1 cup of the water.

    While the pasta is cooking, twirl your nuts in a food processor. (That just made me giggle.) Add the ramp bulbs and twirl some more.

    Add in the blanched greens and cheese. Drizzle in the olive oil. It should look like a thick paste. Taste. My cheese was salty so I only had to add a sprinkle of Maldon for taste.

    Put the pesto in a large bowl and add the linguine. Coat the pasta with pesto and add a little of cooking water to ensure the pasta is fully coated and add to the creaminess.

    If you have any cheese left in the house, add a hearty sprinkle and serve with some lemon slice.

    Your first bite will amaze you. The ramps catch the brightness and garlic oomph I love about pesto.

    The next few weeks I will probably be obsessed with finding more treasures of spring.  I may even try to plant my roots so I can grow my own next year!  (I’m not sure if that works but I’ll be ramped up if it does!)

  3. No Shoulder To Cry On

    May 16, 2015 by Barb


    It was like a cloud was hanging over my head. Everyone else was walking around like nothing was wrong but I felt like rain was falling just on my head. I stumbled in circles saying to myself “What am I going to do? What am I going to do?”

    As I choked back my tears, I took a deep breath and finally had to tell myself “It is going to be okay.” I knew this wasn’t going to define me and I could get over it and move forward.

    I am sure everyone has had these kinds of moments in their lives. What I’m not sure of is if they experience emotions like this when they can’t find an ingredient in the grocery store. (Oh, you don’t?   Well, this is awkward now isn’t it?)

    For once, I was trying to stay ahead of the game and I had a recipe all ready to try for Cinco de Mayo. I went to the store with my list and couldn’t find the main protein, pork shoulder. Okay, fine. I’ll go to the next store. I went in and they had the pork shoulder BUT it was so fatty. (I almost just did a “It was so fat….” joke but I didn’t want to get accused of meat bullying.)

    Finally, I went to my desperation store. You know the store I’m talking about, the store you hate but sometimes a girl has to do a girl has to do.   Well, I went into this store and when I asked the staff if they had pork shoulder, they looked at me like I had two heads. Granted, I was a little frazzled at this point and probably looked a bit crazy. (Most people at this particular store look frazzled and crazy so I’m not sure why I didn’t fit in more.)

    The one staffer showed me a plastic tube of ground pork and asked if that was what I was looking for. I looked at it and just looked at this worker and shook my head in despair.

    I felt heartbroken and didn’t have a shoulder to cry on!!!!

    I gave up. I know how to cook, right? I’ll show these stores that I don’t need them and I can make due with what I had in my house. So I stomped out of the store muttering to myself something like “Go suck a worm.” (I’m sure I didn’t say anything more vulgar than that…pretty sure…well maybe.)

    The good thing that came out of this is that after seeing the tube o’ meat, it reminded me that I had some ground turkey in the fridge. (Tube not included, thank goodness!) Not exactly what I was going for but at this point my hands were tied. (Tied like I should be in straightjacket for going so crazy looking for a pork shoulder.)

    I took my concept for dinner (pork tinga) and just did it with ground turkey. ¡Ay, caramba! This was DELCIOUS!!

    Dieciséis de Mayo Tacos


    3 red potatoes

    6-ounce chorizo

    1.5 pounds of ground turkey

    2 tsp garlic, minced

    1 can Rotel Tomatoes (I used the lime flavored ones)

    3 chipotle peppers in adobo, minced

    1 tsp oregano (Mexican)

    1 tsp of the adobo juice from the chipotle

    2 cups of cheddar cheese

    Favorite tortillas


    Sliced avocados, pickled onions, cilantro leaves, tomato slices and lime slices


    Heat oven to 425.

    Dice the potatoes and toss them with some olive oil. Toss them in a larger casserole dish and roast 20 minutes. STIR. Roast another 20 minutes. (Depending on how small you cut your spuds, your potatoes may cook faster. So it is okay to taste them to make sure you don’t over/under cook them.)

    While the potatoes are cooking, crumble up the chorizo and brown it in a large skillet. Remove it but don’t drain off the chorizo juice left in the pan. (Unless there is a ton and it creeps you out.)

    Brown the ground turkey. Add the garlic and cook another minute.

    Mix the turkey, chorizo, chipotles, adobo, oregano, tomatoes and cheese. (Reserve about ½ cup of the cheese.)

    Ding the potatoes are done. In the same dish the potatoes roasted in, stir in the meat mixture. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and pop it back in the oven for 5-10 minutes.IMG_9630

    Grab a tortilla, scoop in some of the mixture and top with your favorite ingredients.

    I like when I can talk myself off the ledge when a recipe doesn’t fall into place. Now I just have to find some new places to shop since I think my picture may be up in the manager’s office for being a crazy person.

  4. Foodie Fun Day: Sweet Tomatoes

    May 11, 2015 by Barb


    One of my favorite parts of spring is getting my tomato plants into the ground with the anticipation of a garden full of sweet tomatoes. There is nothing better than grabbing a tomato off the vine and enjoying it in your meal.

    Speaking of which….have you ever been to the restaurant Sweet Tomatoes? They call themselves a Salad Buffet but after eating there I thought of it more as a Café-teria. I chose that description because the items offered were far from the options I usually see at either a salad bar or buffet. Instead, Sweet Tomatoes had some really fun dishes that reminded me of the selections I’d have at a healthy café but the choice to pick and chose like a cafeteria.

    Let me explain how it works. You walk into the restaurant and grab a tray and a plate. Then you start the walk down one of the freshest salad bars I’ve experienced in a long time. It is true farm to table (or bar) dining.IMG_9643

    The Sweet Tomatoes team emphasized the fact that their food is not something that sits in warehouse waiting to be ordered. Their veggies go from the farmer’s fields to their restaurants and there is no middleman. The vegetables are prepared in house and not processed in some factory.

    Back to our tray, the first thing you see is few of their housemade tossed salads.   You can go with a couple of their standard favorites like Caesar Asiago or Wonton Happiness to a creative monthly option like May’s Zesty Turkey Taco. (June is picnic month and they’ll have a Strawberry Fields salad on the menu! YUM!)


    I liked that the salads were not overdressed and the flavors were subtle but not overpowering. The Caesar Asiago was so bright tasting with fresh lemon juice and a hint of garlic and the greens were CRISP!

    If you aren’t a fan of these dressed salads, don’t worry….there are a few plain lettuce options available too. You can fill your plate and then start building your own creation as you walk down the line of veggies like shredded radishes, beets, zucchini and carrots.IMG_9644

    And if you have dietary or allergy limitations, Sweet Tomatoes does a great job labeling their food Vegan, Vegetarian or Gluten-Free. (Plus they have a ton of nutritional info on their website.)

    You also have some novel options to add to your plate like a Chipotle Lime and Cilantro Quinoa (another one of their “loco” options for May’s Cinco de Mayo monthlong celebration) or their house favorites of Tuna Tarragon Pasta Salad or Joan’s Broccoli Madness (broccoli, bacon & cashews).


    The Quinoa salad was gluten-free AND Vegan.


    I’m still really impressed with the tuna pasta salad because it didn’t taste “fishy” and they added just the right amount of tarragon. (Okay, thinking about it is making me hungry!)  Also, Joan’s Broccoli Madness is actually a recipe from an employee that was so good they can’t take it off the menu!

    And if you are a pickle lover….you have to try the dill pickles. Although these are not made in house, they are sourced from a 3-generation family farm in California who KNOWS how to pack a peck of pickles!  (And the pickling liquid is sooooo good, Sweet Tomatoes incorporates it in some of their other recipes!)

    After a twirl of one of the housemade dressings (creative dressings like Basil Vinaigrette and Creamy Sesame Soy ), you order your drink and pay.

    Do you think you are done yet? Nope. You can either sit down and enjoy your salad creation or you can take a peek around the corner to see some of the other fresh options Sweet Tomatoes has to offer.

    If you are a fan of homemade soup, they have EIGHT options. EIGHT! So whether you like it creamy, classic or chunky there is a soup for you. They rotate the soups so if you want something like their classic Creamy Mushroom you better come the first week of the month or you will miss out on a treat! They also have a classic chicken noodle (like Grandma used to make) and a hearty chili.  (Their individual location websites seem to do a great job updating their options so take a look if there is something specific you are craving!)

    Mmmmm, Minestrone.

    Mmmmm, Minestrone.

    I tried to taste them all but found myself indulging in May’s offerings of Albondigas Locas and Chicken Jalapeño Tortilla. (The little meatballs in the Albondigas were scrumptious!)

    If you aren’t one to cozy up to a bowl of soup, Sweet Tomatoes also has a few pasta options for you. A super luscious macaroni and cheese will bring out the kid in any of us but I had to try the creamy cilantro lime pesto. It was a super creative Mexican twist on one of my Italian favorites.


    And if you are one of those folks who need to sop up your sauce or last drop of soup, don’t miss the fresh focaccia, blueberry muffins and cornbread. (I got a sneak peek of the Strawberry muffin offered in June and I could have eaten a whole tray! They were the perfect balance of sweet fruit to savory muffin.)

    Is it June yet?  I want another Strawberry muffin!

    Is it June yet? I want another Strawberry muffin!


    Finally, your sweet tooth won’t be ignored because the bakery makes brownie bites, chocolate chip cookies and lava cake for a dinner dessert. There are also some soft serve options like vanilla, swirl or a seasonal option. (Honestly, I only ate muffins!)

    IMG_9650 Sweet Tomatoes is currently in 15 states and really a great dining option. (I don’t have kids but wouldn’t it be wonderful to take a child to a place where they have so many healthy options.) It was so nice to go somewhere that is “all you care to eat” and not feel stuffed when you leave. I was full but it was a nice full like you get when you eat a good home cooked meal. I didn’t feel guilty about any of my food choices because Sweet Tomatoes really gave me healthy options to choose from.

    I think the best part is that you can customize your meal. Do you want soup and salad? How about a nice bowl of pasta and Caesar salad? Maybe you want a heartier meal like a corn bread smothered in chili (some of the restaurants also have baked potatoes you can load up too!). It is really what you want to make it.

    For me, Sweet Tomatoes is going to be a great option when I’m out trying to get a lot done but need to make a faster, smart choice for a meal. They give me the tools to make a fresh, nutritious decision when I dine out.

    Thank you Sweet Tomatoes for the great dinner. I can’t wait to come back in June to enjoy your Sweet Tomatoes “picnic” style! Hmmmm, a buffet with café quality options….I think you just won me over!


  5. All I am I am Saying is Give Snow Peas a Chance

    May 8, 2015 by Barb


    I love epiphanies or what some call light bulb moments. You know what I’m talking about…those instances when you brain wakes and tells you the reasoning about feelings you have about something. It is like all of a sudden “POW” and a topic you’ve never understood finally makes sense. (When I have an epiphany, I actually see the word “POW” in cartoon letters over my head but that is because I have read too many comic books over the years.)

    Recently my brain has been unveiling a lot. I think a lot has to do with recovering from surgery and the need to make life better. My epiphanies lately have to do with everything from relationships to landscaping to foods I hate.

    Obviously, the relationship epiphanies are the hardest to grasp and in some cases fix. Relationships can be messy and it takes work on both ends to make things work. Finding peace in a broken bond is a challenge but realizing my part in it has been interesting. (Sorry if I am being vague but it doesn’t take a cartoon bubble over my head to make me KNOW that giving details on something this private would not be helpful to anyone. Plus, it might be blog fodder for a later date if I get desperate!)

    Enough of that….my landscape epiphanies were kind of accelerated by my neighbors. (I also know they will read this and LAUGH!) They have been screwing in my light bulb lately and “helping” me make some changes to our yard. (By “helping,” I mean they physically do the work for us and find us cool stuff to put on our property.)

    As for food, my epiphany in this topic is like the light going on in the fridge. I know if I would open the door to new things, the light will go on. It is like magic!

    But recently I had an epiphany about snow peas. It was on my list of foods that I really didn’t want to eat BUT then it hit me again like “POW.” Actually it was an overzealous mom who hit me with her grocery cart and knocked me into snow pea bin. I thought maybe I’m not anti-snow pea maybe this is a sign. (Literally, it was a sign that fell on me….”Snow Peas $1 a pound.)

    As I picked the snow peas from my hair, I realized that I have learned to love some foods by first changing the way I prepare them. Maybe I need to try something new with snow peas. POW! I’ve only had snow peas in stir-fries and never had really just grabbed some and gnawed on them.

    So I ate one. Blech. Nope….that didn’t do it.   I didn’t like the physical act of biting into the snow pea. (Freud would have had some of his own epiphanies on this topic!)

    I did the next best thing….I sliced them REALLY thin and tried again. Mmmmmm, better but I wanted a little more. I treated my cut up snow peas like a salad and next thing you know I finished the bowl!

    POW!!! These are great!

    Snow Pea Salad


    8 ounces of Snow Peas (I only spent 50 cents)

    3 green onions, sliced

    3 radishes sliced in half and then thinly slice in half moons and then quarters

    2 tsp toasted sesame oil

    Zest and juice from one lime

    1 Tbsp sesame seeds


    In a small bowl, whisk together the sesame oil and the lime juice. Set aside.

    In another bowl, add all the veggies and lime zest. Toss with the lime juice dressing and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.

    This is great as a side salad with grilled fish or chicken. I had a HUGE lime so if you need it a little more acidic you can add more “POW” by adding some extra lime juice or maybe you’ll have an epiphany and add something else!


  6. Sink of de Mayo

    May 4, 2015 by Barb


    There are things I think about all the time. Silly things like do chickens ever wonder “which came first.” Or maybe I ponder questions like why are monkeys the only primates allowed to throw their poop? Or why do I choose to use the word poop in a food blog again?

    Yep, these are things that go on in my pretty little head. (I also think if people look at me sometimes and wonder if I own a comb because sometimes my little head isn’t so pretty!)

    One of the biggest things I think of is why do people buy mayonnaise? First, I’m not a huge fan of store-bought mayo. I feel the store-bought stuff has a weird sour taste to it. I like sour but not “weird” sour.  It is like a sour candy that someone already sucked on.  (Not that I’ve eaten a lot of pre-sucked candy.)

    Another reason I don’t like store bought mayo is because it is too creamy. I like my mayo to have a little “oomph” to it. When it drips off of my sandwich, I want it to stick to my chin so someone has to awkwardly tell me to wipe my chin. (Okay, this is how I test new friendships….I glop food on my face and see how long it takes people to tell me to use my napkin!)

    Finally, I just don’t trust the “good by” dates on store-bought mayonnaise. There is some in my fridge but I’m scared to open it because I haven’t touched it in so long. (There are other things in this house that I haven’t touched in a long time too but let us focus on mayonnaise today.)

    All of this came to mind this week because my sister in law was on mayonnaise seeking mission. She was looking for a particular brand that didn’t have soybean oil in it and couldn’t find it. (She is a very determined woman! You should see her gumption when we are looking for crafting supplies!!!!)

    My empathetic response was “Why don’t you just make your own?”  (I am sure she is tired of me always asking this question but she still loves me anyway.)

    Homemade mayos allow you some control in the oil base if you are one of those folks who read labels and are concerned at what goes into your body.

    I also understand that some folks hesitate making their own mayo because of the raw egg but it can be done when you buy a decent eggs and practice common kitchen cleanliness (good source, pasteurized, fresh, no cracks, wash YOUR hands after touching shells, etc.)

    Now making homemade mayo is easy but it does take a little practice. I remember the first time I made it. I took all the ingredients (egg, mustard, oil) and plopped them in my food process and twirled it. It never came together so I dumped it in the sink.

    My next attempt went better because I slowed down a bit. My mistake was when I wasn’t “watching” my mayo and I kept adding the oil because I thought if the recipe said 1 cup….it meant 1 cup. Next thing I know, the whole thing separated and I dumped that in the sink too.

    By the time I got my act straight, I had a full sink of the mayo. (Yep, this is where I was going the whole time!)  I was making something that really is simple so hard. So I did it one more time…..Olé….I had homemade mayonnaise and so can YOU!!!

    Homemade Mayonnaise


    • 1 large egg yolk
    • 1 Tbsp lemon juice (fresh!!!!)
    • 1 tsp Dijon (Don’t skip the mustard….it works like an emulsifier.)
    • 1 cup of oil (I do a mix of olive oil and grapeseed oil. I sometimes use a flavored olive oil if I am looking for a particular profile.)
    • Salt and Pepper to taste.
    • Directions
    • Place the yolk, lemon juice and mustard in a wide mouth jar or in that tall cup that comes with immersion blenders. (If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can whisk it in a shallow bowl or do this in a food processor.)
    • Put the blender so the head is flush with the bottom. Switch the immersion blender on and start drizzling the oil slowly. It should start climbing the side of the jar.
    • As the mayonnaise starts to form, slowly tilt the head of the blender to make sure you aren’t missing a drop of the oil.
    • If it gets to your desired consistency, stop adding the oil. I usually only add ¾ cup of the oil.
    • This is one of those cases where you can overdo it and over blend the mayo.
    • Add salt and pepper to your taste. (This is one of those rare things that I never add pepper to.)

    The oil is really the huge “likeable” factor here. I’ve made it with sesame oil too for Asian chicken salads and it is out of this world!  I’ve also made it just plain vegetable oil and I thought it was “filmy.”

    Some folks don’t like olive oil because the flavor comes off too strong but I found mixing it with another oil calms it down a bit.

    Now if you happen to add too much oil, it happens. Don’t start over. Whisk up another yolk and slowly whisk it into your messed up mayonnaise. This way you won’t end up with a sink of mayo.

  7. A Token Bowl of Soup

    May 1, 2015 by Barb


    Did I ever tell you I was a sore loser? I don’t scream and cry. I stew in my fury of not winning. (If I win, I do scream out “In your face, Sucka!” Hmmm, this may be why my sisters dislike me.)

    Honestly, I am not ALWAYS a sore loser. I am sure that I was guilty of this offense once or twice. There was the “house” incident playing Monopoly when I didn’t like my sisters getting to put the little green houses all over their properties when I had none. My solution was to take all the houses and put them in my mouth.   If I were being completely honest about this memory, I’d tell you that I spit them out at my sisters. I was little so I don’t think this should count. (Okay, I was probably 20.)

    I’m not just competitive at games; I’m that way when making meals.   I have a theory that if I have some browned ground beef, carrots, celery, onions and can of tomatoes, I am boundless. (Unlike crossing the boundaries of poor sportsmanship when playing Monopoly.)

    This week I couldn’t get my game right. It was like landing on Boardwalk when all you own is Baltic Avenue! All my ingredients were for fun spring recipes but the weather was not making me feel like spring.

    Anyhow, all I wanted was some sort of stewy soup but I didn’t want to go out and spend any more money on food when I had a produce drawer full of options. (Plus, I didn’t pass go and I didn’t collect $200.) I also didn’t want to monopolize my entire afternoon cooking. I had stuff to do and places to be. (I don’t really talk like that but the guy on the Monopoly box does.)

    So I just rolled the dice and took a chance. (My Monopoly friend, Kelly, is just loving this bit right now!) I broke out the ol’ slow cooker and started adding stuff. It was like a get out of jail free card.

    Monopoly Stew-oup


    1 pound ground beef (browed)

    ½ cup carrots, chopped

    ½ cup celery, chopped

    ½ cup onion, chopped

    28 ounce can diced tomatoes

    2 cups of Kale, torn up

    2 tsp minced garlic

    1 heaping tsp of Italian seasoning

    ½ cup white wine

    4 cups vegetable broth

    1 cup cooked pasta (pick something small that will fit on a spoon)

    Olive oil

    Salt and pepper

    Gouda Cheese, grated for garnish

    Optional: A Parmesan rind.


    In a medium sauté pan, heat up a good swirl of olive oil over medium heat. Saute the carrots, celery, and onion. You don’t want to cook-cook it; you just want to soften it up a little. Add your garlic and cook another minute. Add the wine to deglaze anything that is left on the bottom of the pan.

    Meanwhile, in your slow cooker, add the beef, tomatoes, kale, Italian seasoning, broth and veggies you just cooked up.  (If you have the rind, add it.) DON’T ADD THE PASTA!!!!! You won’t need that until you are serving because it will get mushy and you will want to spit it at your sisters.

    Put the top on and cook on low for at least 4-5 hours. (Maybe go play a game!)

    Game’s over and it is time to eat! Taste for additional seasoning. My vegetable broth was incredibly salty so I didn’t add any extra punch to the soup but you may need to add a thimble full.

    Put a little pasta in the bowl and top it with the hot soup.

    This was as satisfying as landing on Free Parking and you will want to eat a wheelbarrow full! I wonder if they’ll ever make a “soup bowl” token.  (Happy 80th Anniversary Monopoly!)

  8. Sour Patch “Kids”

    April 27, 2015 by Barb


    Kids. I have zero in my household (unless you count emotional age then there are 2). But I do have more kids than I can count that call me “aunt.”

    I love it.

    I get to be the fun, cool one who never has to be responsible for a child’s behavior. I can always say “Not my fault…I’m just the aunt.”

    I also get to do all the fun stuff like make silly faces at the table, shove treats in their mouths when their parents aren’t looking and tickle frowns off their faces.

    But I have a confession; I don’t like all the kids all the time. I don’t have the unconditional love that seems to go with being a parent. Give me a sour acting kid and I am more than happy to be done with my auntie duties. (Not my best quality but I’m not in denial.)

    The other realization I have had is that a kid doesn’t always remain “sour.” My mom always said that kids have different phases.  (She is right about so many things!)

    With all the kiddos in my life, I can pick a point probably with each of them that made me happy they weren’t coming home with me.

    There was one kid that seemed to cry anytime her mom was out of sight. There was another who couldn’t look up from her phone at the dinner table. There was even one who popped me in the nose when I tried to hold him.

    But as time has passed that kid who would cry now wants to hang out with me ONLY if her mom doesn’t come with. The texting kid is the one who reprimands others for using their phones at the table. And the “nose popper” tells me he loves and gives me big hugs.

    These behaviors make me think of the candy, Sour Patch Kids. Have had these things? Your first bite is almost painfully sour but then you immediately get a hit of sweet.

    I made these this past weekend when I saw a group of my nieces and nephews. Like sour candy, some of the kids just loved them….others made a face.

    Kind of like when I’m on aunt duty, a mixture of love and making faces!

    Sour Patch Grapes


    1 3-ounce box of flavored gelatin (This is the fun part you can pick your favorite flavor, I did lemon this time on red seedless grapes)

    2 pounds of grapes (seedless, pick your favorite color)


    Pluck the grapes of the stems and rinse them a colander.

    Let them sit there and drip. You want them moist but not wet.

    Add about half the box of gelatin in a gallon size sealable baggie.

    Add the grapes in smaller batches. Shake to coat. Set aside in a bowl. Add more grapes.

    When you notice they need a tad more coating, you can put the rest of the gelatin in the bag, add grapes in batches again and shake away. (I found singing a chorus of “Shake your Booty” was the perfect shake time.)

    Place in fridge and let them set for at least a couple of hours. You want the gelatin to set on the grapes.

    You can also coat the grapes in a big bowl if you don’t want to use a disposable baggie. I’m too messy and didn’t want gelatin all over my floor.

    The nice thing….if you don’t have a ton of grapes…just use a couple of tablespoons of the gelatin and save the rest for another day!

    I’m not a fan of artificial sweeteners but I’m sure you could use sugar free if you are trying to cut back on your kids sugar intake.  I am the aunt so I like to get the kids all hopped up on sugar and send them home!








  9. Spring Rolls Me Away

    April 23, 2015 by Barb


    Where do you live? Have you been enjoying a “normal” spring in your area? I am in the Midwest and spring is a rollercoaster of temperatures, weather events and emotions.

    For most of us “lifers,” we aren’t surprised when one day we have 80 degrees and the next week it snows. We get used to frost warnings the day after we plant our vegetable garden. Snow the day after we put away our shovels. And 40-degree temperatures drop the day after we put away our heavy sweaters.

    I normally don’t mind the cockamamie weather. (Mostly because it gives me an excuse to use “cockamamie” in a sentence.) I like the unknown. It makes me feel more dangerous because danger is my middle name. (I’ve always wanted to say that too.)

    The best part of spring to me is probably the food. It really doesn’t matter what the weatherman says….as long as the food on my plate says “spring,” I’m happy! (Actually if the food on my plate is talking to me, I’m a little freaked out but I still eat it.)

    Spring meals are full of color and vibrancy. Usually the ingredients have more crunch to them and freshness that is only experienced after a great trip to the farmer’s market. (I can’t wait for it to be farmer’s market season!)

    So Saturday was one of those spring days that you remember all year. The sun was shiny but it didn’t feel hot. The wind was just a wisp that made the leaves of grass dance. The birds were all singing like they were part of Mother Nature’s choir.

    But the best part was my lunch. I made spring rolls, which seemed appropriate. I had some spring roll wrappers in my pantry and just started pulling stuff out of the produce drawer. I also had some leftover chicken that I shredded and made a quick pot of rice noodles. Mmmmm, it was like spring rolled right into my mouth….I guess that is where they got their names.

    Spring Rolls


    ½ package of rice noodles (cook per package directions, I also use the glass noodles)

    Package of rice paper wrappers, don’t buy the ones that you have to fry. These look like there is a basket weave on them (see picture)

    I found this picture on the internet to give you an example.

    I found this picture on the internet to give you an example.

    1 red pepper, thinly sliced

    1 seedless cucumber, thinly sliced

    A good handful of pea pods

    1 cup of shredded cook chicken

    1 package of your favorite salad mix

    1 cup of shredded carrot

    Fresh herbs like mint, basil, cilantro or chives. You don’t need a lot, just enough sprinkled in each roll so you get that wonderful pop of fresh herbs.

    Optional: Peanut or Thai Chili Sauce for dipping


    Have all your veggies chopped and set up in an assembly line ready to go. Make sure your rice noodles are tender and your chicken is shredded before you start on your rice paper rounds.

    Have a large cutting board set up with some dry paper towels stacked up.

    Fill a large shallow pan with hot water and take one rice paper and submerge it for 30 seconds or so until it isn’t hard but not mushy. (This might take a couple attempts.)

    Transfer it to the top of paper towels. Top with some lettuce, rice noodles and your chicken, veggies and herbs of choice. Don’t OVER FILL it!!!

    You can add a smidge more than this but don't go crazy.

    You can add a smidge more than this but don’t go crazy.

    It should take up about a third of the wrapper. Fold your sides in but don’t pull so tightly that you rip the wrapper. Wrap the long end over and kind of tuck it under.   From here everything should be secured and you can just roll it up.

    Place the now wet paper towel over the top and set aside until the rest of your rolls are made. Slice on the diagonal and serve with a dipping sauce if you desire.

    You can make these ahead of time (like an hour) but you HAVE to keep them covered with something that is lightly moist but not super wet or you will end up with mush rolls.

    These can make a great lunch or a fun appetizer! Either way these are a great way to help spring “roll” in!

  10. Hamilton Beach FlexBrew 2-Way Coffee Maker

    April 19, 2015 by Barb


    So I’ve been 45 for one full week now and have spent some time being introspective.   At this number (that I consider middle age), I have decided to make two lists. One of my lists would be my good qualities that are just perfect and don’t need any adjustment. (Wow! This is a very long list. Apparently, I like me very much.)

    My other is a list of things I could work on. Like being a bit more humble and maybe some more humility. (Example… reread my first paragraph.)

    One of the things I would like to work on is my hostessing skills. For some reason I never mastered that whole invite someone in and offer him or her a cup of coffee. They make it seem so easy on TV. “Welcome, can I make you a cup of coffee.” Smiles all around.  Nope, not at my house.

    In my case, I say, “What are doing here? I don’t have a coffee maker. There is a gas station down the street!” Okay, I’m not that bad.

    The truth is I didn’t have a coffeemaker until last week. Hamilton Beach was kind enough to send me the FlexBrew 2-Way Coffee Maker to try out in my house. Previous to receiving the FlexBrew, all I had was an espresso machine, which is not everyone’s cup of tea….I mean coffee.

    The FlexBrew makes coffee differently than your average “joe” machine because on one side you can make up to 12 cups in the carafe with fresh ground coffee or on the other side make just 1 cup using a single serve pack.IMG_9514

    This is an awesome option for our house because there are times we only have the one friend who wants a cup of coffee and then we have others who want more than a cup or two (or three or four) after dinner.

    After testing it out this weekend, I was pretty excited to have this bad boy in my house. Let me start with the carafe (pot) side. It is pretty much like other “regular” coffee makers where you add the paper filter to the brew basket (permanent filters can also be used), measure out your coffee and water and press a button.

    A few things stood out to me like there is a button for you to press for brew options…bold or regular. It is nice when you can ask your guests how they like their coffee. (I have one friend who likes it so strong you can literally watch the hair grow on his chest as he finishes his cup.)

    I also LOVED the pause and serve option.   There is nothing worse than sitting waiting for a pot to fill up when you really NEED that first hit of coffee in the morning. (And let’s admit we live in an impatient world and we want things fast!)

    And lastly my favorite thing about the carafe side is that you can program it so the coffee will be made at a designated time. This can be great for overnight guests who wake up earlier than you. No more worrying about them snooping in your cabinets trying to figure out how to make some coffee; it’ll be ready when they get up and you can sleep in. (Let’s face it, they are going to snoop anyway but they’ll do it faster now that they’ve got some caffeine kicking in!)

    Now what really got me excited was the single serve side. I do have a lot of “popover” company that just want a quick cuppa and then leave. (To spare my proofreaders any anguish….cuppa is slang for coffee.)

    The instructions for this side were even easier because I didn’t have to measure the coffee. I just moved the dial from left (carafe side) to right (single serve side), filled the mug I was going to drink out of with the desired amount of water (it couldn’t be larger than 14 ounces), adjusted the cup rest to my desired height, popped in my single serve coffee capsule and pressed a button. Ta-dah!

    There is also an option to use coffee grounds or soft pods on the single serve side if you are not a fan of the individual plastic cup option.

    I really enjoyed the cup of wakey juice from the individual side. It gave me everything I love in cup of coffee….warmth, great taste and CAFFEINE!!! (You can make it decaf but I would ask WHY?)

    If I were to make one criticism, I wish Hamilton Beach had included the travel mug with the machine. There is one available on the Hamilton Beach website or you could probably find one at Wal-Mart (who does sell the machine.) It isn’t a huge issue but it would have been nice to have it all matchy-matchy.

    With all that said, see how simple it is to improve my hostessing skills with something as easy as offering my guest a cup of coffee any way they like it?!

    So in the spirit of a good hostess, I am offering to giveaway one Hamilton Beach FlexBrew 2-Way Coffeemaker on the Felt Like a Foodie Facebook page.   Click here for the details. I will pick the winner on May 1, 2015 and post it on the Felt Like a Foodie Facebook Page. (Sorry to the non-FB folks. I really don’t have the manpower to do it any other way. So much for being a good hostess.)

    Again, thank you to Hamilton Beach for allowing me to test out another one of their great products. I am sure all of my future guests appreciate me finally being able to offer them a cup of delicious coffee!  (But you can’t use my monkey mug!!)IMG_9525