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  1. Bon Appétit Cook the Cover October

    October 20, 2014 by Barb

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    When I received this month’s Bon Appétit, I was so excited to see a pizza on the cover. It was going to be a breeze to knock this cover out and keep my resolution of cooking every cover this year. (And I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared at what the holiday issues may toss my way in the next two months!)

    Making pizza at home is probably one of my favorite things to do but it has been awhile since I made a pizza pie on a baking sheet like Bon Appétit did this month. IMG_8195

    Bon Appétit called this pizza a “grandma” pizza but it wasn’t my Italian grandma who made me pizza this way, it was my mom who was the pizza genius.

    My memory doesn’t allow me to remember how often we did this at home but every memory I do have is joyful.

    Mom would make her dough and it was always a treat to be the one to punch it down after it doubled in size. She would lie out the baking sheets on the counter and stretch the dough over each one.

    Sometimes a little hole or two would pop up and Mom always managed to conceal them with her gentle hands.

    Mom’s sauce wasn’t fancy (tomato sauce, oregano, maybe some garlic) but she did teach us how to spread it out evenly so each bite of pizza would have a touch of tomatoey goodness.

    Between my two sisters, and me we were all designated a part of the pan that was ours. We were allowed to add our favorite ingredients and sprinkle on cheese. (Knowing my mom, she kept it fair and made sure we all had the exact same number of pepperoni slices or olives so there would be no bickering.)

    It was just one of those memories that I will cherish.

    So when I made this month’s cover of Bon Appétit, I was instantly taken back to Mom’s kitchen. It is an easier way to make a “pie” and the outcome was absolutely delicious.

    The main difference between Bon Appétit’s and Mom’s recipe was the thickness of the dough. BA’s pie was thicker but not dense as you might imagine. The instruction on making the dough was spot on. It was absolutely fool proof. (Speaking of proof…make sure you proof your yeast to make sure it is ALIVE!)

    Another key point is to make sure you do use a good amount of olive oil on the pan before cooking. The olive oil helped crisp the bottom crust so it tasted more like an authentic pizzeria pizza.

    Bon Appétit gave some fun suggestions for pizza toppings that aren’t’ found at most pizza joints…. especially in our small town.

    I like the flavor combination of fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced fennel and mild salami. The sauce Bon Appétit suggested was awesome with just the right balance of tomato, garlic and anchovies. (Don’t skip the anchovies, they add a nice saltiness.) I sprinkled on some fresh basil from what is left of this year’s garden and called it a pie!

    It cooked beautifully but I almost burnt it! I checked it at 20 minutes and it was just about done.  I, stupidly, walked away for a couple of minutes and almost wrecked it!  (The oven is HOT so watch those last minutes carefully!)

    My mom would be the first to say that she doesn’t like to cook but I will always be grateful to her for teaching us how to make pizza this way.


  2. Using My Noodle

    October 17, 2014 by Barb

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    Know what I hate? (Besides rainy days and Mondays, they always get me down.) Sticky noodles!!!!

    Have you ever had this problem? (By noodle I am talking about pasta/macaroni not some other kind of weird noodle you may have in mind.)

    The ol’ hubster (and his noodle) were gone somewhere last weekend and I was just craving a big bowl of peanut noodles. I got all my ingredients together and used my noodle to make a simple peanut sauce on the stove. (Recipe below.)

    I cooked up a package of fresh lo mein (egg) noodles and dumped them in the colander to drain. I was just about ready to mix it all together when I heard a Meow at the door. It was the neighborhood stray cat, Mr. Fluffy, who wanted a meal. (His noodle is fine but his owner needs to do something about his meatballs!)

    I fed Mr. Fluffy and came back to my noodles and they were a big gluey mess! It was a clump of gelatinous muck!!!   I was mortified. By not rinsing these noodles, I just turned an already dense noodle into a heavy, sticky hunk of goo!

    So luckily I had another pack in the fridge and I gave it another go. (And ignored the cat continuing to meow at my front door.)

    I cooked the pasta in a pan large pan of boiling, salted water and drained into my colander. Without hesitation, I rinsed it under cold water and used my fingers (I washed my hands after petting the cat) to separate the noodles and make sure the pasta was cooled off.

    The key here is to drain it again really well by flipping it around the colander. You want it almost to feel dry. Next, give it a drizzle of sesame oil (I’m cooking an Asian peanut sauce so this was a good choice for complimenting the flavor.) If it isn’t dry enough, the oil is just going to slide off.

    I put the noodles in a BIG bowl and slowly started to mix in my peanut sauce. The sauce stuck to the noodles but didn’t get clumpy. It was all loose (kind of like the kitties that hang around Mr. Fluffy) and just what I want in a bowl of noodles.

    The key here was to do it all quickly and have all your ducks (cats) in a row before you get started. I think my problem (one of many) is that when I make an Italian dish the pasta goes from colander to sauce and there is no rinsing required.

    But a cold Asian noodle dish is a different beast. I think the next time before I get a craving, I am going to use my noodle before cooking my noodle and look up the best method!

    Sunday Afternoon Peanut Noodles

    (Serves 2 if you are willing to share with the cat)

    Ingredients

    1 9-ounce package Chinese egg noodles (cook per package instructions)

    ¼ cup crunchy peanut butter

    ¼ cup ponzu sauce

    2 tsp Sriracha

    1 clove garlic, minced

    ½ cup shredded cooked chicken (use some leftover chicken)

    1/4 cup red pepper diced

    1 green onion, sliced

    1/8 cup celery leaf (celery goes great with PB!)

    Slice of lime

    Directions

    • Cook noodles per instructions and my hints.
    • In a small saucepan, whisk together peanut butter, ponzu sauce, Sriracha and garlic. Heat over low until all ingredients are incorporated.
    • Mix in red pepper, chicken and green onion.
    • Stir in your non-clumpy noodles.
    • Sprinkle with celery leaf and give it a squirt of lime.

    I like when I screw up in the kitchen because I always learn something. Today’s lesson is to feed the stray cat before I start cooking!

     

     


  3. Ode (Owed) to Joe

    October 14, 2014 by Barb

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    One of the best things about writing Felt Like a Foodie is the ability to share my zany stories about life and food with so many people. (By so many, I am including all my imaginary friends.)

    In the recent weeks, I’ve received some emails asking me how my Crohn’s disease has been since my surgery last year. I have good and bad days…I always will. Every meal has a “risk” element and I just keep my fingers crossed that today will be better than the next. It is pretty rare that I have a pain free day but I try to concentrate on the happy parts of my day and move on.

    I started to think about writing an update post yesterday when I ran into Joe, my first boss. He owned Edwardo’s pizza in Olympia Fields back in the 1990’s and gave me my first job.

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    You see when I worked for Joe, I was “kind of” sick then too. When he interviewed me, I was honest that I get sick…a lot. I also insured him that I would work my butt off to him to show him that I was like everyone else.

    Joe saw something in me and gave me a chance and started me off as a hostess. I’m not sure how long I worked for him but I did get sick at work….really sick. I scared the heck out of that man but he kept giving me the benefit of the doubt.

    Slowly I worked my way up the ladder of pizza success going from a hostess to a server to a “key holder.” I was given responsibilities like ordering food, interviewing and I even fired a guy.

    There was a feeling of victory with each task because I was showing Joe that he didn’t make a bad decision by hiring me. And trust me, Joe was no pushover! To this day, I can remember going back into the kitchen numerous times to make his iced tea the way he liked it. (It was an art form of filling the glass with A LOT of ice and letting the warm tea cascade over the cubes.)

    Working for Joe at Edwardo’s (he still owns one in Munster, Indiana) was probably one of my favorite experiences in my life. It was the first time I felt “normal” and didn’t need to make an excuse for being sick. I just owned it.

    Better than any medicine I have ever received, seeing Joe yesterday and hearing his memories had a healing effect on me. (Pizza is good medicine too!)

    With all my heart, I can say Joe was the best boss I ever had. The skills he taught me about responsibility and organization have carried me through my adult life. I will forever be grateful to him for giving me a chance and raising my own expectations of myself.

    Here is to you, Joe. I owe you a lot!


  4. Falling in Love with the Set ‘n Forget® 6 Qt. Programmable Slow Cooker

    October 10, 2014 by Barb

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    Funny thing about doing a lot of events during September, the maid seemed to also take the time off too! I can’t believe how behind I am on just regular chores!! Toss in some extra fall work outside due to our trees dropping leaves…and I am spent. (At this moment my husband is laughing because I haven’t raked a leaf in years!)

    With that said, I wish there was an easier solution for dinner other than buying prepared meals or take out. On a busy day, I want to have a great meal on the table for my hubster that doesn’t require him unwrapping it from paper.

    My friends kept telling me to break out my slow cooker but in the past, I never got good results. I always felt like the food was overcooked. I mean seriously, how can almost EVERYTHING cook for 4-6 hours!? It just didn’t work for me.

    UNTIL….Hamilton Beach gave me the challenge to try and review their Set ‘n Forget® 6 Qt. Programmable Slow Cooker With Spoon/Lid. I must say I reluctantly took the challenge.

    When the box came to the house, I instantly got excited. (Okay, any time a box comes to the house I get excited. Everyone likes surprises!) It really is a pretty looking appliance. Does that matter? Yep! If it is going to be sitting out on my counter all day cooking, I would like it to be nice looking.

    The next thing that made me VERY interested is that there was a probe to help ensure your meat cooks and STOPS cooking at your desired temperature. The entire time you cook in “probe” mode you can see the temperature of your meat. And when it hits your desired temperature…it clicks to warm. Ta-dah.

    I had to test this out with a chicken. A whole chicken. I put 3 carrots, 3 celery stalks and 2 quartered onions on the bottom of the slow cooker.IMG_8074

    I had put a dry rub of paprika, rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper on the chicken and stuffed the bird’s cavity with some chopped lemon slices and garlic cloves. (I’m about to give a lot of detail on how this works but it really isn’t your momma’s slow cooker. So keep reading!)

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    I then placed the chicken directly on the veggies and put the lid on. (No additional liquid was needed!) I did have to turn my chicken around because you want to probe the thickest part of the meat. I wanted the probe in the thickest part of the meat, not touch a bone and not touching the bottom of the slow cooker.

    One end of the probe is then plugged into the slow cooker and the other side into the chicken. I turned on the slow cooker and pressed PROBE, set the heat to low and then pressed enter. (This is where it gets super cool.) It then allowed me to set my desired temp for my finished bird!! (FDA recommends 165 degrees so I went with that. You can find temperature recommendations on Food Safety.gov.)

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    I pressed the cook button, it beeped and all I had to do at this point was wait for my chicken to be done. (Did I mention that the display alternated back and forth from the actual temperature of the bird to the desired temp that I requested?)

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    The funny thing is that Hamilton Beach calls this Set and Forget but all I could think about all day was eating my chicken! When the chicken hit my desired temperature, it beeped again and went into warm mode.

    When my husband got home from work, I was more than ready to eat. I got a little careless when I tried to pull the chicken out of the slow cooker by the leg and wing. (Hence the really awful picture of my chicken!)

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    There were about 2 cups of natural drippings in the cooker so I did make a quick pan gravy in case my chicken was dry. (I did pop mine under the broiler for 2 minutes to brown the skin a little bit while I was making my gravy.)

    But guess what? (What Barb?) This chicken was cooked perfectly!!! It was incredibly moist and tasted like a roasted chicken.

    It was almost shocking how happy I was with this chicken. So I decided to try the Set ‘n Forget® 6 Qt. Programmable Slow Cooker With Spoon/Lid with a fall staple….chili. (Okay, I really wanted to make a dish so I could use the cool spoon on top of the lid.)

    I used the “Program Mode”, set my time, heat setting and let it go. Once again, the display alternated between my programed heat setting and the remaining time. Once it hit that time mark, it beeped and went into warm mode. (And my chili was really good. I put too much water in but that was my error because I forgot that when slow cooking chili you need to add less liquid since there is a smaller evaporation factor.) But I did get to use the handy spoon on top. NICE!

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    The success of this slow cooker over other ones I’ve tried in the past is the fact that it stops cooking the food when it reaches the desired temperature or time and automatically pops into warm mode.

    One other feature that I have to mention is the snazzy clip locks on top of the lid. The last couple times I traveled with my slow cooker, I spilled stuff out of the sides. I tried duct tape and trying the lid down but there was always a mess by the time I got to my destination.

    The Set ‘n Forget has these awesome clips on top that hold down the lid…TIGHT! You can’t budge that thing. It is a nice feature for those of you who go to a lot of potlucks or family parties.

    I really want to thank Hamilton Beach for providing me with this great opportunity to change my view of slow cookers. (And if you want to wine one there are a few days left to enter my Facebook contest. Click here for details.)

    As the overwhelming days of Fall keep me on my toes, it is nice to know that I am going to have some fun trying new meals and finally “fall” in love with my slow cooker.

     


  5. Change is Good: Red Lentil Soup

    October 7, 2014 by Barb

    Red Lentil Soup

    I don’t like change. I’m not talking about coin change; I’m talking about adapting to something new.

    We experience change every day in the weather or what we eat or which undies we are wearing. (I like changing underwear; it is so refreshing. Don’t you think?)

    I do okay with daily changes but unexpected changes just throw me for a loop!

    One of the biggest things I have trouble with is when a restaurant has a menu change. Since we do live in a smaller town, I pretty much know most restaurant menus by heart and have my dinner picked out before I even sit down.

    But when that restaurant hands me a menu and I see that my dish is taken off, I almost panic. I try to stay calm but it is at that moment I want to tell my husband to just hold me and make it all better. He likes when I do that at home because it makes him feel so manly. He doesn’t like when I do it in a crowded restaurant because, let’s face it, it makes us look like weirdoes.

    So one of our favorite restaurants (Sahara) switched things up on us. They moved and changed their name to Pickle & Turnip. Now part of me is wondering if they moved to hide from some of their odd customers. (Not us, of course, we are so normal.) They moved so they could have a bigger space in a better location.

    Luckily, the owner (Moe) kept his menu pretty much the same BUT there was something missing at lunch… RED LENTIL SOUP!!! NOOOOOOOO!!!! I love that soup. It was my cold rainy day favorite. How will I survive? I may have to move because I can’t imagine a cool October day without Moe’s red lentil soup.

    So I had two choices. I could just have a memorial for Red Lentil soup and go through all of the stages of grieving. (But how can I grieve if I can’t have one of my favorite comfort foods? Wow, is that a vicious circle!)

    My other option is to figure out how to adjust to the change and just learn to make my own dang soup. Hmmm, that seems like a reasonable possibility!

    I did search for the recipe and tweaked one off of Food Network’s site. Mine is much more brothy than the original but I like a thinner soup. Use a GOOD paprika in this soup, it makes a difference.

    I loved it and know it will be on MY menu a lot this year. Maybe change isn’t so bad?

    Red Lentil Soup (based and partially quoted off a recipe from Aarti Sequeira)

    Ingredients

    1 cup red lentils, washed and soaked for 1 hour, drained

    3 cloves garlic, chopped

    ½ Serrano chili, seeded, chopped

    1 Tbsp fresh ginger, chopped

    1 onion, chopped

    1 can of diced tomatoes with juice

    32 ounce Vegetable Broth

    1 Tbsp grapeseed oil

    1 tsp cumin seeds

    ½ tsp smoked paprika

    ½ tsp turmeric

    Season with salt if needed

    Garnish with lemon slices dipped in paprika

    Directions:

    Combine the lentils, garlic, chile, ginger, onions, tomatoes and vegetable broth in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

    Bring the mixture to a boil, and then lower the heat and simmer until the lentils are tender, 30 to 45 minutes, covered.

    Use your immersion blender to blend it to your desired consistency.

    “Warm the oil in a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and cook until they are sizzling and spluttering. Stir in the paprika and turmeric. Pour the seasoned oil onto the lentils (be prepared for a big sizzle).”

    Divide into bowls and serve with a squeeze of lemon dipped in paprika.

    Like many soups, this even tasted better the next day!

     


  6. Potatoes Au Gratin…More Fun than a Barrel of Monkeys

    October 3, 2014 by Barb

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    I am so happy it is October!!! September was exhausting and more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Wait…is a barrel of monkeys fun? Some monkeys are aggressive so there might be some tension in the barrel maybe even some poo throwing. So pretty much anything sounds better than a barrel of monkeys.

    If you are still reading after that bizarre tangent….I also like October because of comfort foods. (Monkeys don’t care about comfort foods because they usually live in warmer regions or barrels.)

    One of my favorite things I ate last month was potatoes au gratin at Shaw’s Crab House. We had a fabulous dinner there for our anniversary (nothing beats their Grand Crab Buffet on Saturday nights) and I ate my weight in potatoes.

    Now it is a bit crazy to go to Shaw’s and eat potatoes (or to write a blog about potatoes but keep talking about monkeys) but have you ever had their potatoes au gratin!? They are fabulous!

    The only problem…I do not have their recipe. (In all fairness, I have never asked.) So over the years, I have played around with different recipes but I have never achieved that Shaw’s perfection…until now! (If I were a monkey, I’d be swinging from the trees making a lot of joyful noises!)

    I think here are the keys to potato fabulousness:

    • Obvious first key, pick a good melty cheese. Cheddar, Gruyere, fontina, Gouda, Emmentaler and Muenster are really nice choices. (A mix is even better!)
    • Get the cheese to room temperature. It will lessen the melting time and keep the cheese from seizing.
    • Did I say seizing? (Like the monkey on the bottom of the barrel.) Cheese that is heated too long or at too high of a heat can have protein tightening and that is what pushes all the fat out of the cheese. This results in a big oily mess.
    • Shred it yourself. I just think it has a better texture and is great exercise. (Unless you are carrying a barrel of monkeys, which is really good exercise.)
    • Cut your potatoes as thin as humanly possible! I don’t preboil my spuds so to insure they are going to cook evenly…they need to be thin.  I use my mandolin.
    • Finally, keep an eye on them as they cook. We all like different levels of brown…that is your call (like the call to the ASPCA when you find out your neighbor has a barrel full of monkeys in their backyard.) You do need to make sure the spuds are cooked so don’t be afraid to poke a knife in the center to make sure they are all tender.

    Potatoes Au Gratin (Restaurant Style)

    Ingredients

    1 ½ pounds russet potatoes (about 3-4), peeled and thinly sliced,

    2 Tbsp butter, separated

    2 cloves garlic, minced

    2 Tbsp flour

    ¼ tsp salt

    ¼ tsp paprika

    1 cup heavy cream (don’t skip the heavy cream)

    ½ cup milk

    6 ounces gruyere (about 1 ½ cups)

    Directions

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

    Take one tablespoon of the butter and grease up a 1 ½ quart baking dish. Give it a good healthy schemer.

    Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt the remaining tablespoon of butter over medium-low heat. Add garlic and cook for about a minute or two. It should be fragrant but not browning.

    Sprinkle the flour on and cook another minute. SLOWLY whisk in the cream and milk. You want to incorporate the flour evenly because that is going to thicken the cream a little nicer.

    Remove from heat and add the salt and paprika. DON’T ADD THE CHEESE!!!

    Reserve about 1/3 cup of the cheese and set it aside.

    Add the potatoes and remaining cheese in layers…potatoes..then cheese…potatoes then cheese.

    Pour the cream mixture over the top and cover with remaining cheese.

    Cover the potatoes for the first 20 minutes. Uncover and bake another 40 minutes. It should be all nice and bubbly. Let it sit for at least ten minutes before serving.

    I was thrilled with how this recipe came out! I love Gruyere but will try it with some other cheese mixtures.

    I’m still going to indulge in potatoes au gratin when I go to Shaw’s BUT it is comforting to know that I can make these babies at home. (In a monkey free zone.)


  7. Chicago Gourmet 2014

    September 29, 2014 by Barb

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    Chicago Gourmet has become my Christmas. I have started to look forward to it like no other time of year and I count down the days like a child with an advent calendar. Just like the holidays, I can’t wait to sample all of the delicious foods, see familiar faces and there is always anticipation of a surprise or two around the corner.

    As I was driving to Chicago Gourmet at Millennium Park this weekend, I started singing (a tone-deaf version of “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas”)…..

    It’s beginning to look a lot like Chicago Gourmet

    Everywhere I go

    Folks in crisp white coats

    Steph from Girl & the Goat

    With food from every great place in Chicago

     

    It’s beginning to look a lot like Chicago Gourmet

    Lots of wine to pour

    But the prettiest sight to see

    Is food in front of me

    I can’t wait to go for more

    So this year I thought I’d share my adventure via pictures like Christmas cards posted on the wall and thank everyone who participated. Chicago Gourmet is truly a gift that never disappoints and I will start my countdown until next year immediately!


  8. Now Playing in My Kitchen: Big Fork and Pasta

    September 26, 2014 by Barb

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    My brain seems a little frazzled right now. I’ve eaten a lot of really great food these last couple of weeks and now I am trying to get back into the swing of my own kitchen. I keep waiting for someone to present me with a menu, put it on a small plate and do all the work. (This is where in the movies a dark, ominous sky appears and the heroine looks forlorn.)

    It is not like I’m not motivated, it is more like I just don’t know where to begin because I’ve been so inspired. I have learned so much lately that I want to share it all with you. (Except the weight gain, I don’t think any of you want to share in my newfound poundage!)

    So I thought I’d start by sharing with you one of the products that I always seem to have available in my freezer…sausages. I love to have sausages in the house because your options are endless with them. (This is where I would get a PG-13 rating for all of you naughty people out there making sausage innuendos!)

    Sausages can be a meal on their own like in a sandwich or as an entrée. Or you can use your sausage to add an exciting component to something like a spaghetti squash casserole.

    Last week at the Fortune Fish & Gourmet Seafood and Specialty Show, I bumped into one of my favorite sausages….Big Fork. Chicago made (and nobody knows sausages as well as Chicago), natural, handcrafted, local farmed and most important…DELICIOUS!

    I was first introduced to Big Fork a couple of years ago when I won some of their sausages in a raffle. (Seriously, if you have a chance to be in sausage raffle…enter it!)

    I think the one I won was the Hickory & Applewood BACON sausage!

    Did you catch that? Big Fork puts bacon in their sausage. I love the extra flavor the bacon adds to the sausages. (They have a ton of different flavors of fully cooked sausages like Portabella, Maple & Brown Sugar, Cracked Black Pepper and aged Cheddar.)

    Embarrassing plot twist of the storyline: I was sure I won the Spicy 3 Pepper EXCEPT that hadn’t come out yet. Still feeling a little stupid about that one but Big Fork humored me like a fairy godmother and granted me a package of the Spicy 3 Pepper Hardwood Smoked Pork and Uncured Bacon Sausage to try. (This time to really try..not make believe try!)

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    So my brain instantly thought that this sausage  would be a great compliment to a nice creamy tortelloni. And I must say that what I came up with was truly a happy ending to the story.

    Tortelloni with Fennel, Peppers, Roasted Tomatoes, Arugula and Spicy 3-Pepper Sausage

    Ingredients

    1 bulb of Fennel, large dice

    1 Red Pepper, large dice

    1 Onion, large dice

    3 cloves garlic, chopped

    1 pint grape tomatoes (roast at 400 degrees on parchment paper (single layer) with a douse of olive oil for 20 minutes.)

    2 cups arugula

    ½ cup FRESH Basil

    1 Package (12 ounce) Big Fork Spicy 3 Pepper Sausage*

    *You can purchase Big Fork Sausage online or in some stores in the Midwest. If you can’t find it, make the recipe with a good spicy sausage cooked in bacon drippings. The salty-smokiness of the bacon was a nice add on to the other flavors.

    1 12 ounce package of TORTELLONI (I like the brand Rana the best)

    Olive oil, salt and pepper

    Directions

    In a large sauté pan, sauté the fennel, red pepper and onion. (A little salt and pepper is nice too.) This is one time you don’t really want to brown everything. You are just softening the veggies up. It took about 8 minutes over medium heat.

    Add garlic and cook until fragrant. (Another minute or two.)

    Add the roasted tomatoes and lower the heat to simmer lightly. This is where your flavors are all going to hug together. The tomatoes will start to burst a little and that is a good thing.

    Meanwhile, get your pasta going and put your basil and arugula in your colander.

    While the pasta is cooking, get your sausages done. I browned them whole in a non-stick skillet JUST until they showed some color. And then I sliced them into circles and continued to brown them in the pan. The Big Fork sausages have a lot of juice to them and I like the extra flavor you get when you cut it up and brown it further in the juices. I do drain the finished pieces just to make sure they don’t start squirting people.

    Ding! Your pasta is done. Pour the hot pasta water OVER the colander filled with the arugula and basil. It is a quick and easy way to take away a little of the bite of the arugula and keep the color in the greens.

    Mix the pasta with your sauce (make sure you taste for seasoning, you may want to add more salt BUT be careful with adding more pepper because the sausage has a kick to it) but don’t let it cook for more than a minute or you will end up with mushy pasta.

    Dish out into bowls and top each dish with some slices of sausage.

    For a night that I was wishing for an out meal, I ended up creating a meal that made me feel like I was at a really good Italian restaurant. The flavors of the sauce (especially the fresh fennel) really paired nicely with the Big Fork sausages.

    Thanks to Big Fork for sharing your new product with me. It was great and like your t-shirt says…I think they are made magically from unicorns!

     

     


  9. Slow Food South Shore Sunday Supper: Heritage and Heirlooms

    September 25, 2014 by Barb

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    “Slow down, you move too fast.” Do you know that song from Simon and Garfunkel? It kept going around my head this weekend when I learned about something new…slow food.

    No, I don’t mean food that at one point was slow like a snail or turtle. The definition of slow food is “food that is produced or prepared in accordance with local culinary traditions, typically using high-quality locally sourced ingredients.”

    The Slow Food Movement is a nonprofit group that is connecting the joy of savoring great food and the work it takes to produce healthier, local options for everyone.

    On Sunday, I was invited to dine at the Slow Food South Shore Sunday Supper at Granor Farm in Three Oaks Michigan. The theme of the night was Heritage and Heirlooms and our meal was prepared by Chef Luke Caenepeel of Journeyman Distillery, Chef Nathan Freiburger of Oak and Alley and Pastry Chef Rachel Murphy of Spire Farm to Fork.

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    With a lovely communal table set in the middle of a greenhouse full of lettuces, we all were invited to introduce ourselves and enjoy a couple of nibblers* before we embarked on the tour of the farm. (The imbibers of the group also enjoyed some beer by Tapistry and Wine by Domaine Berrien Cellars.)IMG_7660

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    *The nibblers (a perfect smoked belly tartine with tomato jam and the roasted beet crostini with goat cheese, avocado cream and Serrano peppers) were so good that I felt distracted on the tour because I couldn’t wait to get back to the table and eat more!

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    Granor Farm did a great tour describing the different areas of the farm in terms of the seasons. It was fascinating to see all of the land and how the hoop houses could accommodate so many fresh vegetables.

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    After the short walk and seeing the roots of our dinner components, I couldn’t wait to sit down to dinner. We started with a fabulous fresh salad with mixed greens, delightfully rich and buttery Mindoro blue cheese, tomatoes, roast radishes and a hibiscus Bilberry gin vinaigrette. You could taste the freshness of the greens and the radishes.

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    Next we had the best pork chop I’ve ever eaten in my life. The meat was heritage pork from Jake’s Country Meats and the chefs brined it in cider and served it with smoked peaches. The light dousing of whisky sauce complimented all the flavors. It took all of my self-control to not gnaw on the bone at the table and lick my fingers. (Just a little window into my table manners at home.)IMG_7682

    The other main component of our meal was pork carnitas with pickled cabbage, onion, lime and corn tortillas. I’m not really objective when it comes to carnitas because I LOVE THEM! I liked the pickled veggies on top and will do that next time I make them at home. They also served some tomatillo sauce and it made these carnitas sing.

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    We were able to fill our bellies with Dragon tongue beans, sautéed kale and homemade beet pappardelle pasta with peppers, eggplant, cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and a Whisky Barrel Balsamic.

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    Our meal was completed with a brown butter cake with tarragon olive oil ice cream and a schmear of candied beets. I didn’t even realize that the schmear was beets. It was sweet like strawberries but it had a bit of an earthy finish.IMG_7695

    Slow Food South Shore conducts monthly meetings that are open to the public if you would like to learn more. Meetings are held on the last Friday of every month at 9:30 a.m. CT at Bartlett’s Gourmet Grill in Beverly Shores. Membership is not necessary to attend meetings.

    After sharing this outstanding Sunday Supper, I did feel more connected to my meal. There was a link that allowed me to identify not only with the farmer who grew my meal but also to the Earth that has to fight so many battles internally to produce the food. (Okay, I have to give props to the chefs who knew how to throw down a wickedly good meal.)

    Special thanks to Slow Food South Shore for allowing me to share in this event. I guess Simon and Garfunkel were right. Slowing down does make you feel groovy.IMG_7650


  10. Living the Dream: Food Network in Concert at Ravinia

    September 22, 2014 by Barb

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    I’ve been burning the candle at both ends lately and just wanted to take a nap. So I stretched out on my belly and all of a sudden I was having the craziest dream. I was at Ravinia (the oldest musical festival park in the US) in Highland Park, IL.IMG_7431

    I knew I was dreaming because the signs said Food Network in Concert at Ravinia! Food and Music….please don’t wake me up.

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    Seeing some of my favorite Food Network Stars in person put me in a complete stupor.

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    Geoffrey Zakarian (Co-Host of The Kitchen, Chopped judge and Iron Chef), Alex Guarnaschelli (Chopped judge and Iron Chef) , Anne Burrell (Host of Worst Cooks in America), Jeff Mauro (Co-Host of The Kitchen) ,Jose Garces (Iron Chef), Marc Murphy (Chopped judge).

    I stood there crying after meeting Iron Chef, Alex Guarnaschelli. (I’m very grateful this was a dream or I would have been very embarrassed.)

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    March Murphy is less intimidating in person!

    Marc Murphy is less intimidating in person!

    Everywhere I turned, there were food pavilions and some of Chicago’s most likeable chefs.  (And some awesome food including Dirk Flanigan’s (Il Coniglio )Agnolotti Meri in Brodo Di Pessce.)

    Rockit Burger

    Rockit Burger from Rockit Bar and Grill

    Spicy Edamame from Sunda

    Spicy Edamame from Sunda which I sat in the grass eating.

    Grilled and Chilled Texas Pete Gazpacho from Chef Craig Adcock

    Grilled and Chilled Texas Pete Gazpacho from Craig Adcock

    The event also had special themed lunches (Rocks N’ Rolls, Franks and Beats, Country Cookout dinner, HOT!HOT!HOT!) and dinners (Farm to Turntable, Blues, Brews & BBQ, Scenes from an Italian Restaurant, Around the World in Four Courses and I Want Candy). Each event had a celebr”eat”y host and awesome live music.

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    Guess who I found in Hot! Hot! Hot!  Chef Cory Morris from Mercat a la Planxa.

    Guess who I found in Hot! Hot! Hot! Chef Cory Morris from Mercat a la Planxa.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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    Chef Allen’s Urban Pickles were a huge hit at the Country Cookout

    I wandered into Franks and Beats and had a blast seeing all of the different ways Chicagoland views a hot dog! (I had one of those weird dream moments where I saw Chef Geoff Zakarian and Chef Marc Murphy hanging at a picnic table eating hot dogs!)

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    It doesn't get more Chicago than Wiener Circle

    It doesn’t get more Chicago than Wiener Circle

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    Thomas Bowman of Whisky Tango Foxtrot made an awesome Foie Dog

    Leave it to Bill Kim to make an awesome Belly Dog with curry mayo and egg noodles.

    Leave it to Bill Kim to make an awesome Belly Dog with curry mayo and egg noodles.

    The House Favorite was from Kevin Hickey at the soon to be opened Duck Inn

    The House Favorite was from Kevin Hickey at the soon to be opened Duck Inn.

    But then the skies started turning dark and little droplets of water were hitting me. It almost startled me into consciousness but next thing I knew I was at this gigantic tent called the Greatest Hits which was a line up of chefs cooking awesome food and groups serving adult beverages. (This part of my dream was still a little scary because everyone huddled in here during the rain and I wasn’t able to hit every table due to crowd.)

    GT Fish & Oyster Shrimp Bruschetta, avocado mousse, fresno pepper and grapefruit

    GT Fish & Oyster Shrimp Bruschetta, avocado mousse, fresno pepper and grapefruit

    My grumpiness of this rush of people was soon given a reality check when I saw the huge NO KID HUNGRY display. I can’t complain about anything when I go to bed every night with a full belly.

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    So it was a perfect time to bump into the infamous Sunny Anderson and get a big hug.  She made made every person in the park feel like they’ve known her for years.

    I lovie Sunny Anderson!!

    I lovie Sunny Anderson!!

    And I had a “d’liteful” conversation with Ingrid Hoffman in JC Penny’s gorgeous living space.

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    As the weather cleared up, my dream kept having crazy moments. I would stand in line for over an hour to get autographs on cookbooks while talking with some of the most fun food enthusiasts I have ever met.

    Jeff Mauro (I also met his Dad while waiting and he was just awesome!)

    Jeff Mauro (I also met his Dad while waiting and he was just awesome!)

    But my brain knows you can’t be at Ravinia without hearing some music. The headliners were Philip Phillips (who enjoyed the Happy Birthday chorus from the audience) and John Mayer but I must say that the group, Twin Forks, kept my reverie alive. They were fantastic. (I was so in the moment with them that I never once lifted my camera.)

    Happy Birthday Philip Phillips.

    Happy Birthday Philip Phillips.

    John Mayer was pretty awesome the guitar.

    John Mayer was pretty awesome the guitar.

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    Don’t wake me up!

    As my REM slowed down, my crazy wild dream ended. As I woke, I felt like I should thank the awesome folks at The Food Network and Ravinia Festival. It was an unreal experience and I hope I can live the same dream again next year!