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  1. Monday Mourning

    July 21, 2014 by Barb

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    Sorry folks, I’m not writing about food today because I am sad. Really sad. I’ve lost someone close to me. Every time I sit down to write, my mind goes directly to him.

    I think some of you know who I am talking about….Archie Andrews. Sigh.

    It has been in the papers this past week that the creators of Archie Comics have decided to kill off Archie in the Life with Archie series of comics. (Life with Archie is the story of the kids after they grow up.)

    I haven’t read the actual issue because it is just too upsetting to me. (And it hasn’t come in the mail yet.) Archie and I have been together since the 70’s. It was my absolute favorite comic series.

    And to be truthful, I still read them. The simplicity of the stories still makes me happy like a little kid each night before I go to sleep. (The only exception is that now I have to wear bifocals!)

    So I guess Archie’s death has me a bit befuddled. I get that the creators made up this new series so we can see the growth of the characters that we have known all our life. My problem is that I just don’t know how much “reality” I want in my comic book especially since Archie gets shot and dies!! (I guess this is where I should have given you a spoiler alert for that one but I’m in pain and not thinking clearly.)

    Why couldn’t they kill off a different character? Wouldn’t it be more realistic if Jughead died of a coronary? Or maybe Dilton could blow himself up in a lab? Heck, it would have been more to the story line if Big Moose died on a football field!

    But noooooo, they have Archie taking a bullet for his friend who was speaking out against gun violence. Doesn’t this sound like something you want to read in an Archie comic? Not really.

    Now in their defense, I have not read the issue but I don’t read Archie for drama; I read it for fun. This is my time to regress and be a child. I don’t want to deal with adult issues in a comic book.  (I don’t want to deal with adult issues ever but that isn’t really an option.)

    With that said, I am going to wait to see if there is an underlying plot to all of this. Maybe Betty had him knocked off because he used her all these years? Could Mr. Lodge have hired a hit man so Archie wouldn’t marry his daughter? Maybe Reggie Mantle had it done so he could finally be the star character?

    I’m not sure how they continue a series called Life with Archie if Archie is dead. Maybe Veronica is pregnant with his child and they’ll continue the story with Little Archie. (Oh wait, they did do some Little Archie stories back in the day…and they were horrible.)

    Besides the fact that I’ve been reading Archie comics all my life, I think I got upset about all this because I had always thought Riverdale was my safe place. It was the place I went to when I was sick. The town contained my friends who made me laugh when I felt lonely. I knew that someone there would always make me smile.

    I understand that the world we live in is not Riverdale and it can be violent.  It was nice not being scared every time I turned a page. It is weird to be 44 and feel like the one last innocent part of my childhood was just taken away from me.

    So this Monday, I am mourning Archie. I guess like most deaths of loved ones in our lives, it doesn’t have to make sense.

    Maybe I’ll go hit a malt shop for lunch and hope that my joy for Archie will be resurrected.

    Rest in peace, Archie Andrews.

     

     


  2. Red Gold Summer Grillin’ Party II

    July 17, 2014 by Barb

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    Where are my tomatoes??? This summer has been so cold that my tomatoes are JUST starting to surface. I think I’ve picked a pint of grape tomatoes and that is about it. . (I mean seriously, it was in the 50’s at one point yesterday….during the day…when the sun is out!!!)

    My stash of canned tomatoes from last year’s garden has been long gone and the “fresh” ones in the stores produce aisle haven’t been anything to write about.

    This is where I now feel compelled to say “We interrupt this blog to bring you this important message from Red Gold Tomatoes.”

    So when my pals at Red Gold Tomatoes announced that they were doing another Summer Grillin’ Party contest, I thought the timing was perfect. The contest has a great grand prize….a large BIG GREEN EGG GRILL!!!! (And no, I did not receive a grill for promoting this contest but it is on my want list!)

    It is simple to enter (here are the details) and there are also weekly prizes. Don’t wait too long because the contest is over on July 23rd!

    Now I was skeptical (who me, never) when I first read the recipes for this particular promotion. Essentially it was to make a burger patty with a can of diced tomatoes mashed into the mix. My thought was that this is going to fall apart and make my grill a mess.

    In addition, I am not a huge burger eater but I played around with two of their recipes and came up with an easy recipe for homemade ketchup!!!!

    The first recipe was a Goat Cheese Stuffed Portobello Mushroom Burger. It is a great option for your vegetarian friends or as an appetizer on its own. I followed the recipe with a few exceptions. First I used the Red Gold Diced Tomatoes with Basil, Garlic and Oregano. I also didn’t have a pepper so it was omitted and I added a huge handful of chopped spinach.

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    It was incredibly flavorful and I would have no problem serving it to my guests.   I would make a special note to look for smaller Portobello caps. Our store only had HUGE, mammoth bigger than your head caps so I was only able to fill two and I would have liked a more even ratio of mushroom to filling.

    The next recipe was sort of a mash up of both the Italian Turkey Burger and the Spicy Tomato Burger. Essentially, I made the Spicy Tomato Burger with the Red Gold Petite Diced Tomatoes with garlic and olive oil with a pound of ground beef. I finished it “Italian style” with fresh mozzarella and a basil leaf.

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    Now to my complete surprise…the burgers stayed together!!! (Angels were singing!) The key was draining the canned tomatoes for a good long time.   I let it sit for a good hour before I started to cook.

    The part that really knocked my socks off (because it is so cold I am wearing thick socks to keep my tootsies warm) was the wonderful, juicy flavor the Red Gold tomatoes added in each bite!!! I don’t like tomatoes ON my burger but apparently I like them IN my burger.

    The final recipe that was not on the Red Gold list but it is a MUST try was my ketchup. I am not a fan of ketchup. It makes no sense to put ice-cold tomato sauce on a hot burger. It is madness, I say, pure and utter madness!!!

    When I drained the canned tomatoes, I had all of this beautiful tomato nectar sitting on the bottom of the bowl. It seemed like a waste of good food to pitch this juice.

    So for fun (because I am just so wild and crazy), I took the juice from one can of Red Gold diced tomatoes and added them to a small saucepan with 1 teaspoon of tomato paste. I put the heat on medium/high and let it reduce until it was thick.

    This is ketchup!!!! It came out so rich and delicious and warm!!! The best part that it highlighted the flavor profile of that particular can of tomatoes and I didn’t even have to season it any further!

    Thank you to Red Gold for providing me with some Red Gold Tomatoes so I could experiment freely. Don’t forget to enter the contest and I hope one of my readers win that grill…and then give it to me because you are all generous like that. : )


  3. Happy Bastille Day?

    July 14, 2014 by Barb

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    Happy Bastille Day to all of my French Readers!!! (Unless you only read French and then you probably don’t follow Felt Like a Foodie.)

    I actually don’t know much about Bastille Day. (I’m a lousy historian.) After about 30 minutes online, I still didn’t know anything about Bastille Day. (I also have a lousy attention span when it comes to anything to do with history.)

    It isn’t that I don’t care about the French or their history; it just hasn’t been a huge part of my life. We do have some friends with French genes but we don’t see them much. (It is fun to kiss them hello because they either kiss both cheeks or go full “French” if you catch my drift!)

    So I did more reading and found a way for it to make sense to this all American girl. Bastille Day is kind of like our Independence Day. It is the day the French rebelled against their monarchy and fought for their freedom. This was the start of the French Revolution.

    Now I get it. The King and Queen were horrible tyrants (and hates a tyrant) and they really made their people mad! The day is celebrated because this was the start to sorts of good changes in France. (And that is as historian as I’m going to get.)

    I’m sure my friend’s with French degrees or parents could enlighten me but usually when people start talking about history, I find an excuse to hop into the kitchen.

    Speaking of kitchen (oooo, it has been awhile since I used one of my brilliant and not obvious segue), I really wanted to treat my readers to something authentic to honor Bastille Day.

    Little did I know my garden was in the mood to celebrate too. I went out back and picked some tomatoes, yellow squash, zucchini and eggplant. It just screamed ratatouille!!! I bet the fighting soldiers made this at the campfires when they were in battle since all the veggies were in season. (I couldn’t find a source to see if that was true or not but humor me.)

    Like any recipe, the ones I saw for ratatouille seemed to share ingredient profiles BUT there were some different techniques. For the most part you can cook all the ingredients together in one pot but I think that would muddle the flavors. (It would be like a monarchy of flavors and no one likes a monarchy!)

    I followed the approach of roasting each veggie separately on parchment and then introducing them to the pan right before serving. It allows each vegetable to shine and no one is going to rebel after eating this dish!!!

    Roasted Ratatouille

    Ingredients

    2 zucchini

    2 yellow squash

    2 Japanese eggplants (or baby eggplants)

    1 yellow pepper

    1 red pepper

    1 pint grape tomatoes

    1 small yellow onion, diced

    ¼ tsp red pepper flakes

    About 1 Tablespoon herbes de Provence

    ¼ cup white wine

    Olive oil, salt and pepper

    Direction

    Oven 400 and prepare some baking sheets with parchment.

    While oven heats up, cut each vegetable (except onions) so that they are even in size but keep them separate. Toss each group with a little olive oil. (I usually use 1 Tbsp olive oil per POUND of veggie.) Sprinkle with a little salt and a sprinkle of the herbes de Provence

    Special note on the peppers: I rubbed my peppers with olive oil, cut in half and roasted them. I rubbed off any “black” skin and then chopped them up.

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    Layer each veggie SEPARATELY on a parchment lined baking sheet. (I was able to do 3 separate pans at once.)

    Set timer for about 20 minutes and check on them. I like to flip them and let them go another 15-20 minutes.

    When done, set aside.

    Meanwhile, heat a large sauté pan over medium/high heat. Drizzle the pan with oil to coat bottom and sauté your diced onion and red pepper flakes.

    Sauté until onions are just soft.   NOW add everything else to the pan. Toss it all together and deglaze your pan with about ¼ cup of white wine.

    Please note that the eggplant isn't in the picture because it was so good roasted….I kept eating it.

    Please note that the eggplant isn’t in the picture because it was so good roasted….I kept eating it.

    Eat alone, as a side dish or if you are like me…on pasta. I’m carbo-loading for a marathon. (Okay, it is a Harry Potter marathon but it still counts!)

    I hope everyone uses today as an excuse to eat something French and show your independence. (French fries do not count!)


  4. A Wafer of Gold-Wausome Wafers Cheese Crisps

    July 10, 2014 by Barb

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    Do you ever get too old to look for a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow? The arch of the colors make you smile and almost hypnotically start to daydream.

    I think that is the feeling I now get when I see anything to do with cheese from Wisconsin. My cheese-cation last month was like a rainbow filled with colorful new things that made me smile.

    And believe it or not, I did find a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow…Wausome Wafers.

    Well….maybe pot of gold is a bit of exaggeration but they are golden in color and I really treasured the taste!!

    Wausome Wafers are essentially cheese crackers made from real Wisconsin cheese. These little wafers give you the crunch and saltiness you crave in a chip but with a lot more protein and NO carbs!!!

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    The thought behind it was to recreate the magic of an Italian frico (melted cheese formed into circles) and make it shelf stable (about 9 months).  So everyday is like a rainbow!

    Wausome Wafers made me instantly think of the cheese that oozes out of my grilled cheese sandwiches. I ALWAYS let it cook onto my cast iron pan and crisp up a little bit.. That little cheese treat is better than the whole sandwich and Wausome Wafers gives me that same satisfaction….without any work!

    The other thing I like about Wausome Wafers is that they are baked and not fried so you don’t get a greasy feel on your tongue after eating it.

    Currently there are two flavors on the market, Clever Cheddar and Hug & Kiss Colby and Swiss. (More flavors will be due out soon like Soupa Gouda, Bliss Swiss and Party Havarti.)

    I’ve been doing extensive research of pairing up my wafers with favorite foods. (Research in my book entails me eating these wafers every time I step into the kitchen.)  They are a delicious snack on their own but pair up great with fruit like apples and grapes.

    Some other fun pairings can be things like heating up leftover taco meat and scooping it up on a chip. It is like crispy nachos! Or take some shaved deli turkey and a dab of guacamole. YUM!

    And if you are feeling wild, add a dab of onion jam and it is like eating French onion soup…on a cracker!! (And in the rare case there are some crumbs at the bottom of your wafer sleeve, sprinkle them on tomato soup!!!)

    I have a box of Wausome Wafers on my kitchen table as I type this. They probably won’t last long enough to ever make it to the pantry just because they have become my favorite new snack.

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    Wausome Foods is proud to produce a 100% Natural, Gluten-Free, 100% cheese (no fillers) and calcium rich product. They are also one of the rare “crackers” that are allowed to proudly carry the Wisconsin Cheese label on their boxes. (They may be the only cracker.) As they state on their boxes “Wholesome + Awesome = Wausome.”

    Now besides a leprechaun bringing a case of Wausome Wafers, you can order them online at http://store.wausome.com . (Use the coupon code Felt1 for $5 off your order.)

    You can order a six-pack or a twenty-four pack in single flavors or half and half. (The packaging is cute enough that you could make this your go-to hostess gift when you go to a friend’s house for dinner and drinks.)

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    I absolutely fell in love with these wafers but I also really liked the folks at Wausome Foods.   They are a small company out of Wausau, Wisconsin and they are proud of what they are producing….and they should be.

    As an adult, it sometimes is easy to overlook the rainbows. I hadn’t originally wanted to go to the tradeshow about cheese products, now I am glad that I didn’t miss out on this pot of gold.

    Thanks Wausome Foods!!IMG_6387


  5. Blaze Pizza-A Fast Casual Way to Enjoy Pizza

    July 6, 2014 by Barb

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    There are so many things I love when I go to Chicago. There is the beautiful architecture that tells a new story each time you look at it. There is Lake Michigan that is like an old friend waving me over to say hi. And, of course, a trip to Chicago feels incomplete if I don’t get some pizza.

    The pizza part sometimes is a problem because I don’t always have the time to go to a conventional Chicago pizzeria. Last week, I found the solution in Blaze Pizza (227 East Ontario).DSC_0479

    Have you heard of it yet? No? Well, you will. Blaze Pizza will soon be a household name. The concept is simple…build your own pizza with the 40+ fresh ingredients, sauces and spices….FAST. 

    But Barb…how is that fast??? It is fast because Blaze Pizza has developed a dough (made FRESH in house daily) that gets squished by a pneumatic press, goes into a piping hot oven and comes out in 180 seconds!!! The pizza is about 11 inches and is the perfect size to fill your belly. (Pretty neat that you can eat an awesome pizza lunch in under a half hour and KNOW that the pizza was made fresh just for you.)

    The best part was the fact that you can build your own with UNLIMITED ingredients for under $8. (For those of you who aren’t good at mixing and matching flavors, Blaze Pizza has some great “Signature Pizzas” on the menu too!!!)blaze ingredients

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    I loved walking down the “assembly” line and picking and choosing my ingredients.
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    The staff at Blaze has been taught the art of distributing the ingredients on each pizza so you get a little of each ingredient in each bite. (I made a salami, roasted garlic, roasted onion, red pepper pizza with the classic red sauce and mozzarella. YUM!!)
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    And let me tell you about the crust…it was perfect…exactly the way I want a thin crust pizza to taste. There was some crispiness to the outside crust and some chew to the part that held all my ingredients. (Blaze Pizza also offers a gluten-free crust.)

    Red Vine Pizza on a a Gluten Free Crust

    Red Vine Pizza on a a Gluten Free Crust

    After having this experience, all I could do is think of how great this concept is for soooo many of us. The price point suits the budget of everyone from families to Millennials. (I brought my college “intern” with me and she loved creating her cream based, feta, roasted garlic, artichoke heart, cherry tomato and fresh basil pizza!)

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    If I worked near a Blaze Pizza, I would love it because it would break up the monotony of lunch! You could easily have a different pizza every day of the week and never eat the same one twice! (I would do the math for you on all the different combinations but I was never good at statistics!)

    So now that I have your mouth watering, you want to go right? Blaze Pizza currently has 2 locations in Chicagoland (one on Belmont and one on Ontario) but will have 3 more (Presidential Towers, Old Orchard and Evanston) opening soon. (They have locations all over the US so it is not just a “Chicago” thing.)

    It seems like when I go to the city these days, I am always too busy to enjoy everything that makes Chicago great. It is nice that now I can take a moment to stop and not only smell the pizza but have time to enjoy eating it too.

    Make sure to save some room for a S'more Pie!

    Make sure to save some room for a S’more Pie!


  6. Kayem Artisan Sausage: Not All Sausages Are Created Equal

    July 3, 2014 by Barb

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    What are your thoughts on artisan sausages? No, I’m not talking about the statue of David by Michelangelo or the Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci. (Those are artist’s renditions of sausages and not the same thing…and yes…it was immature of me to go there.)

    If you’ve been trying to figure out what to cook for Fourth of July weekend, I’m sure you have seen artisan sausages in your meat department and asked yourself….”What is an artisan sausage?”

    Well I’m here to tell you about my new favorite artisan sausages by Kayem Foods (these are the folks that make Fenway hot dogs). After trying their product, I came to one conclusion…not all sausages are created equal!

    The key to artisan food movement is that they are higher quality because they use less processed ingredients.

    Kayem’s new sausages have 35% less fat than average pork sausage, no artificial flavors and no MSG. Added bonus for all of those who shun gluten….the sausages are also gluten free.

    Did you get that….NO artificial flavors? So the ingredients on the label like uncured bacon & pineapple or sweet pepper & provolone are the ACTUAL ingredients! It isn’t like they just shove something in a package and make a claim that it something that it isn’t. (I hate when that happens.)

    Kayem Foods generously offered to let me try their five new artisan sausages: Pineapple Bacon, Andouille, Fire-roasted Pepper Jack, Sweet Pepper Provolone and Sweet Sausage.

    I’ve had a lot of artisan sausages in my past but they’ve never been pork. The other ones I tried in the past were “fine” but I missed the texture and flavor you only get with a piggy.  (Kayem’s artisan sausages are made with premium cuts of pork sirloin!)

    Kayem Artisan sausages were noticeably less greasy than the average sausage and the unique flavors were really innovative. One night I just made a simple dinner of salad, mac & cheese and the Sweet Pepper provolone. The sausage alone elevated my “easy” night meal.

    Besides the fact that I really liked how these sausages tasted, I was thrilled that they are available at Meijer, which is right around the corner.

    Kayem also has some great hints on their “grill-pedia” so you can create your sausage your own masterpiece.

    I wanted to give my readers something fun for Fourth of July but know most people just want to grill. (I could have done some fun toppings but I really wanted to highlight the sausage.)

    So I thought about the day after. What do you do with your leftover sausage after all the grilling parties are over? You make hash…ARTISAN HASH!!!!  I used the pineapple/uncured bacon and loved it!  The bacon is very subtle and the pineapple adds just the right amount of sweetness. IMG_6235

    Easy Artisan Hash

    Ingredients

    12 ounce package of Kayem Pineapple/uncured bacon

    3 russet potatoes

    1 red pepper

    1 yellow pepper

    1 yellow onion

    Olive oil

    Salt

    Oven 375, prepare baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper.

    Peel and dice potatoes and toss with olive oil and season with salt. Place on prepared baking sheet and let cook until brown and tender. (About 35-45 minutes depending on your dice.)

    While the potatoes are cooking, chop up your sausage. (I cut them lengthwise into fourths and cut into smaller pieces.) Dice up your peppers and onion.

    Heat up your favorite cast iron skillet over medium/high heat. Brown your sausage in the skillet and remove to a separate dish.

    In the same pan, add a smidge of olive oil. Lower heat to medium and cook up the peppers and onion. Add sausage and cooked potatoes.

    I spread it all out evenly in the pan and just let it cook for another 5 minutes. You’ll get some nice browning and some crispy bits. Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed.

    My hash is always taken up a notch by adding a poached egg with some cayenne hollandaise sauce. Mmmmm.IMG_6241

    As the Artisan movement becomes more popular, it is nice to know that there are companies that have spanned generations producing some delicious creative products.

    Thank you Kayem Foods for putting “art” into your food.


  7. June Bon Appetit Cook the Cover

    June 30, 2014 by Barb

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    “She’s my cherry pie

    Put a smile on your face

    Ten miles wide

    Looks so good

    Bring a tear to your eye

    Sweet cherry pie”

    Do you remember those lyrics from 1990 by the band Warrant? I have had the song in my head ever since the June Bon Appetit arrived in my mailbox. I immediately thought “I’ll have so much fun writing a post that ties the song to the recipe.Won’t that be cute?

    Now I am not prudish by any means but I did rewatch the video. It is a little naughty (probably not naughty in today’s standard by any means) but a little too naughty for my audience.

    My original thought was to imitate the gal in the video and put on my shorty shorts and red crop top and twirl around carrying my fresh baked pie.

    I’d swing it on the front porch and swing it on the lawn. I’d swing it to the left and swing it to right….

    But then reality hit me…no one wants to see that. (Okay, my husband would love that but we’ve been married long enough that I think he would have his eyes on the pie since I rarely bake!)

    After spending multiple hours on this pie, I was really tired. I’m not going to put on roller skates, carry a pie and lick a beater. I don’t even own roller skates!

    There IS one correlation between this song and my kitchen…it turns out they are both dirty when the cherry pie is done.

    As anyone who is a regular reader of Felt Like a Foodie knows, I’m not baker. When I do bake, it looks like the band Warrant has come in my kitchen and had a wild party. There were flour and cherries everywhere.

    Besides my loathing for baking (and pies), I think in a bizarre kind of way I really enjoyed making this recipe. (Here is the link for the entire recipe.)

    I did read the BA article on pie hints before I got started so I think that helped out a lot. The sour cherries and almond flour were both available in our area. (Always a plus.) AND I also had a lot of fun cutting the little holes in the top piecrust.

    My only complaint was that there was a lot of time waiting on this pie.   You first make the crust, chill, wait, roll the crust, chill, wait, make the filling, fill the pie, chill the pie, wait, bake the pie, wait and cool the pie 4 hours…more waiting!

    I don’t bake enough pies to know if this time-frame is normal but I will say it came out of the oven so beautifully I would say it IS worth following the directions.

    With a cool drink of water, it was a sweet surprise. It really tastes so good…made a grown woman cry…Sour Cherry Pie!! (Okay, I did just swing my hair around a little bit singing that last line.)  Warrant would be proud!

     


  8. Colman’s & Cookina Summer Blogger Grill-Off

    June 27, 2014 by Barb

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    Can you remember the year you first tried a particular food or condiment? Did it make you so happy that each time you think of that first taste you are taken back in a taste bud time machine?

    I have that relationship with Colman’s Mustard. I was 27 years old in London on a business trip. I woke up in the middle of the night with a kidney stone and my hotel had to call an ambulance. (Stay with me here…it gets happier.)

    I stayed at the hospital overnight but was told I need to take it easy for a couple of days. I was scared, felt sick and just disappointed.  (And I wanted my mommy.)

    My hotel asked if it would be okay to come check on me to make sure I am getting enough to eat and drink. It was heartwarming to know that they wanted to make my two days of bed rest a little more manageable.

    Like clockwork they would come knock on my door and bring me fresh water. They also brought these awesome little roast chicken tea sandwiches with a dish of Colman’s mustard. The chicken wasn’t that exciting but I fell in love with Colman’s.

    It was really zesty and had a smidge of heat. It not only perked up my sandwich but it also perked me up. (I requested those sandwiches for 2 days straight and I still give them credit for making me feel better!)

    UnknownI was recently asked to do be part of a Summer Blogger “Grill Off” sponsored by Colman’s Mustard and Cookina (found at Home Depot). The goal was simple…make an awesome dinner (easy) using both product lines.

    The Colman’s part was easy (recipe below) but I had never used the Cookina non-stick cooking sheet before let alone on the grill. It sounded foolproof …a heatproof mat that you put on the grill so foods don’t stick and better yet fall between the grates!Unknown-1

    It is 100% nonstick, withstands heat up to 500 degrees, FDA food safe and reusable. Great alternative to lining your grill with foil (and for those of us with a small grill you can cut it down to fit the area you designate as your nonstick surface.)

    I must say I did couple trials with the Cookina mat. My first impression wasn’t great. I didn’t feel like I was eating something that was grilled. I missed some of the flavor you get when food is cooked on a piping hot grate.

    To be fair, I gave it a second go and am now in love with my mat. I tossed some zucchinis with a little olive oil, ½ tsp garlic powder and about 1 tsp of Colman’s powder mustard.IMG_6182

    I heated up my grill and placed the mat down on the grates. The zucchini cooked up BEAUTIFULLY and I even got some grill marks. The veggies were super easy to flip because I wasn’t concerned about them slipping between the grates.IMG_6185

    They cooked up in about 10 minutes (flipping at the halfway point.) And tasted EXCELLENT!!! (I could use less oil next time, which is another nice perk of the mat.)

    After using the Cookina mat, I almost feel it was like a good cast iron skillet that needed a little seasoning to help it along. (I also have to add it was REALLY easy to wipe clean.)

    So what did I cook with my veggies….I had to go back to London and make chicken with Coleman’s mustard. (Minus the kidney stone.)

    Colman’s Mustard Grilled Chicken

    Ingredients

    IMG_6171Juice from 2 lemons

    4 Tbsp Colman’s prepared mustard (separated in half)

    2 cloves of garlic, minced

    1 tsp fresh chopped tarragon

    1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast (make sure they are equivalent in size by either pounding them down or slicing them horizontally)

    Salt and pepper

    Extra lemon slices

    Directions

    In a medium bowl, mix 2 TBsp of Colman’s prepared mustard, lemon juice, garlic and tarragon. REALLY mix it well.

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    It will be a beautiful dark “mustardy” yellow.

    Add Chicken and let marinate in the fridge for about an hour. (You don’t want to marinate it too long because the lemon will start to “cook” the chicken.)

    Prepare your grill with one direct heat side (hot side, medium/high) and one indirect heat side (not so hot).

    Sprinkle your marinated chicken breast with salt and pepper and lay on the hot side for 2-3 minutes AND DON’T PEEK AT THEM!!! When they are ready to flip, you should see a little opaque or browning come up the sides. Turn at about a 45-degree angle and cook another 2 minutes. (This will give you those snazzy grill marks that are all the rage.)

    Flip the chicken and repeat for the same snazzy grill marks. IF your chicken isn’t cooked all the way but getting too dark, move it to the cooler side of your grill and continue cooking until they are up to temp. (I pull mine off at around 160 because they will continue to cook off the heat.)

    Let these sweet babies rest for 10 minutes and give them a squeeze of lemon and serve with lemon slices and the extra couple of tablespoons of Colman’s prepared mustard.

    With the grilled Cookina veggies on the side, you have the perfect dinner!

    Thank you Colman’s and Cookina for letting me participate in the fun and sharing your products.

    If you are a fan of Colman’s Mustard or Cookina, join the contest by sharing your own photos online.

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  9. Mercat a la Planxa’s 2014 First Annual Paella Cook-off

    June 25, 2014 by Barb

    Chef Jose Garces!!!!!

    What do you get when you add the following: 1 big paella pan x 8 talented chefs + 4 celebrity Judges? You get 1 happy foodie!!!! (I love new math!)

    Monday night (June 23, 2014), I had the pleasure of attending Mercat a la Planxa’s First Annual Paella Cook-off. Far from an elementary feat, Chicago Gourmet 2014  (Tickets on sale NOW) paired up with Iron Chef Jose Garces to create a quintessential cook-off with eight of Chicago’s most creative and daring chefs. (Or maybe darling chefs…they were all super nice.)

    Jess De Guzman, Sunda New AsianIMG_6140

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    Kevin Hickey, Bottlefork Bar & KitchenIMG_6112

    Mussels, clams, octopus, sausage AND chicken wings!

    Mussels, clams, octopus, sausage AND chicken wings!

    Brian Jupiter, FrontierIMG_6081

    Jon Keeley, Gemini BistroIMG_6074

    Zoe Schor, Ada St.

    Ada representing for all the female chefs in Chicago!

    Ada representing for all the female chefs in Chicago with pork shoulder confit, clams and saffron aioli paella.

    Guillermo Tellez, Mercadito Hospitality

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    Aaron Thebault, Girl and the GoatIMG_6130IMG_6086

    Tom Van Lente, TWO

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    Best porn I’ve seen in ages!  Paella was made with rabbit, chorizo, duck confit, homemade bacon and topped with little crab balls.

    The panel of judges (Chef Garces, Chandra Ram (Plate Magazine), Catherine DeOrio (Check, Please!) and Mario Rizzotti (Iron Chef America Judge)) graded each pan to see who would be awarded the honor of being named….MVP (Most Valuable Paella)

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    I would have loved to sat in on their discussion!

    I could listen to him talk all day!

    I could listen to Chef Rizzotti talk all day!

    The paella chef’s were not going to make the judge’s job easy. The competing chefs all did their homework and knew that paella was a complicated equation of rice, meat/fish, veggies and spices. Toss in one infinitely huge pan and cooking for a couple hundred people; the chefs aced this challenging test.

    The guests also had a voice too so we had to diligently taste each dish and decide who would get the coveted People’s Paella award. (Originally it was called the PP award but for some reason that never really caught on….Just kidding!)

    After getting a quick hello in with Chef Garces (he kissed my cheek and I’m all giggly like a school girl), my husband and I got to work on tasting each paella.

    I was divided between my two favorites: Sunda’s (Uni, bay scallops, laughing bird shrimp, rock shrimp, blue crab, sea snails, pork belly, crab fat, and KUMQUATS) and Girl and the Goat’s (baby octopus, goat chorizo, clams, grilled spring onions, sofrito, and snap peas.)

    Both of these paellas had a bit more of an acidy flair to them and that solved the problem for me on who made it to my honor roll.

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    Winner. Winner. Paella Dinner.

    But they didn’t win. Gemini Bistro’s pork cheek confit, braised octopus, green garlic puree and Chicorones was the judges choice and Mercadito’s black shellfish paella with lobster emulsion and candied tomatoes was the People’s Paella.

    IMG_6164The true winners were all the folks in attendance. We tasted some fabulous food (including a ton of Mercat’s specialties) and were able to help raise some money for the Illinois Restaurant Association Education Foundation.

    Thank you to Mercat a la Planxa, Chef Jose Garces, Chef Cory Morris and Chef Mark Sabb for once again going to the head of the class when it comes to hospitality.

    I had a blast trying so many delicious dishes…there isn’t one paella that I would have subtracted from the night.

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    This was truly a night of friends cooking together with Chef Jess and Chef Cory.

    Chef Heppe from Untitled

    Chef Heppe from Untitled

    Chef Mark Sabbe of Mercat, one of my new buddies

    Chef Mark Sabbe of Mercat, one of my new buddies

    Chef Stephanie Izard was supporting Girl & The Goat Chef de Cuisine contender Chef Aaron Thebault.

    Chef Stephanie Izard was supporting Girl & The Goat Chef de Cuisine contender Chef Aaron Thebault.

    Great seeing Greg from West Loop Salumi

    Great seeing Greg from West Loop Salumi

    Some of the folks who fill my "belli" at Isabelli Relations

    Some of the folks who fill my “belli” at Isabelli Relations

    My only dabbling in "porn" with the TWO guys.  : )

    Dabbling in “porn” with the TWO guys. : )

    And this is the guy I always go home with!

    And this is the guy I always go home with!  Thanks for being my date!


  10. What a Friend We Have in Cheeses: “Cheese”cation Part 2

    June 23, 2014 by Barb

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    One of the best parts of my “cheese”cation was the obvious…. tasting the cheese. Each time we stopped at a creamery, there would be something to try. What made it even better (if 3 days of eating cheese wasn’t good enough) was the fact that I was surrounded by sooooo many experts.

    As mentioned in Friday’s post, the folks at the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board and Fortune Fish & Gourmet invited me on this trip. (Fortune Fish takes pride in educating themselves in all the products it distributes in the Midwest…including their HUGE gourmet food division.) wicheeselogo

    The nice part was that we were all there with the same goal…to learn about cheese…and eat cheese…and talk about cheese.  (And if you really want to share the experience…eat a piece of cheese each time I say cheese…or take a drink…your choice!)

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    I used my little brown book to take notes on the looks, smell, taste and texture of each cheese.

    So I thought that today, I would share with you my favorite bites from each tasting and a little something I learned about that particular cheese. (First lesson…pace myself. This wasn’t a sprint, it was a cheese tasting marathon.)IMG_5887

    Edelweiss Cheese (Monticello, WI) was our first stop so this was my first test in restraint EXCEPT there was a plate of Aged Gouda sitting right in front of me. Gouda is my weakness because it almost has a toffee-like sweetness AND a tiny bit of saltiness. I was also able to taste a smidge of a “crunch” from the crystals formed during aging.

    Next stop, Roelli Cheese (Shullsburg, WI). I have to be fair…I was obsessed with Roelli Cheese before we even pulled up. I am a huge fan of their original Red Rock Cheddar. It has a small “blue” vein to it and gives you just the slightest taste of the rusticness of a blue but not overpowering.

    IMG_5889 But after trying their Dunbarton Blue cheese…I had a new Roelli favorite. Aged a little longer than the Red Rock, the Dunbarton had more of the flavor of an old-school English cheddar. The blue cheese that entwined it gave it a nice earthy and salty flavor. (And this is where I started to lose the marathon….I had quite a few pieces of this cheese!)

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    Red Rock

    Lunch stop at Alp & Dell

    Lunch stop at Alp & Dell 

    Onward to Hook’s Cheese (Mineral Point, WI) to not only fall in love with their cheese but to fall in love with Tony and Julie Hook. (You can taste the love that these two college sweethearts put into each piece of cheese!)

    Using a cheese trier to look at the aging process of a wheel of cheese.

    Using a cheese trier to look at the aging process of a wheel of cheese.

    I was smitten with their blue cheeses. They were all very smooth but the “Ewe Calf to be Kidding”…a mix of cow, sheep and goat cheese was by far my favorite.  (The other thing I learned on this trip is that not all blue cheese tastes the same.)

    Cheese and beer tasting dinner at The Old Fashioned.

    Cheese and beer tasting dinner at The Old Fashioned.  I only ate the cheese…

    On day 2, I was in the middle of my marathon and a bit shaky. I wasn’t sure how I was going to eat more cheese until I arrived at Carr Valley Cheese (Lavalle, WI) and got my second wind. Owner and master cheese maker, Sid Cook really did an excellent job of explaining all of the different cheese that they specialize in so it was really hard to pick a favorite.

    I picked two…the Mammoth Cheddar (a cellar cured, aged cheddar) and the Chunky Blue Spread. I’m not sure if the cheddar is called “mammoth” because of the huge flavor or the fact that it is made in a 70+ pound wheel but either way I thought it had a nice flavor and supple texture.

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    And yes, I am choosing a spread as a favorite because there isn’t anything better than cracker spread with a delicious cheese. (And you know, I speak the truth.)

    Cedar Grove Cheese (Plain, WI) was our next mile marker and I have one cheese for you “Quark.”

    (No….that wasn’t a noise coming from a stomach all jiggly with cheese.)

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    From college physics classes, the science dork in me knew the definition of the word quark (building blocks which build up matter) BUT there is also a dairy quark. This quark is made from sour milk and is similar to ricotta cheese. (Ricotta is made from scalded whey.) And like it’s name in physics, I could see how this cheese would be a building block to soooo many great dishes.  (I bought multiple tubs so I could unleash my science side and experiment.)

    Part of tour included a visit to New Glarus Brewery (New Glarus, WI). I would have loved to spend more time here because it was just a gorgeous property. (I don’t drink but my fellow travelers took one for the team and drank my share.  They were such a giving bunch.)IMG_5927IMG_5920

    While we were here, we were able to speak to Andy Hatch of Uplands Dairy and learn about “seasonal cheese” making how using grass fed, raw milk during the months of May and October can’t be reproduced during other times of the year.

    I missed the tour of the brewery because I was so fascinated about learning this “true Alpine” style of cheese making. (Plus there was some Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheese leftover and I was eating it like it like I was going out to pasture.)

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    Nutty and sweet…kind of like me.

    Having never run a marathon, I thought this was where I would see the finish line but it was just a hallucination because our final cheese stop of the night was a mini-cheese trade show.

    Think of this part of my trip as speed dating with cheese. We went around to different tables, tasted cheese and learned about cheese. Ding! Next table…and so on and so on. It was a fabulous way to learn a lot in a short period of time.

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    One of the many products out of Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery.  Blaser’s Antonella Capers and Black peppercorn cheese was amazing.

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    Holland’s Family Cheese really had an award winning gouda.

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    Loved goat milk based cheeses I tasted from LaClare Farms.

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    Bringing a southern tradition to the midwest…

    Martha’s Pimento Cheese.

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    It is a wafer o’cheese and it is “Wausome!”

    Our final night together was spent at Quivey’s Grove (Madison, WI) sharing incredible food with delightful company. (And may I add that there aren’t more charming people in this world than the staff at Quivey’s!)

    I loved this dining room!

    As really appreciated the handmade quilts in the restaurant.

    On our third and final morning, we went to Sassy Cow Creamery and Farm. It was nice spending some time with the cows and learning more about milk production. It also gave me greater appreciation for all of the work that goes into dairy products. (This is when I felt I crossed the finish line…exhausted and covered in cow salvia.)

    I would have snuck this sweet baby on the bus!

    I could have easily come home with this sweet newborn calf.

    There is a lot of great information out there if you are looking for some good online cheese resources. Here are a few: Eat Wisconsin Cheese, Retail Website, Picks and Bites, and Cheese Cupid (Cheese and Beverage pairings).

    Best said by the folks at Cedar Ridge is that a cheese is a lot of complicated layers that seem to make sense.  Each cheese and creamery had a personality of their own.

    I enjoy aged cheese the best.  I also seemed to prefer cheese with salty notes more than the lactic/acidy flavors.  And as much as I like the pungent, biting taste of a blue cheese; I wasn’t that big of a fan of the custardy, butteriness of a “bloomy” cheese.

    I probably wasn’t as much of a fan of the elastic, chewiness of a curd as I was of a harder, crumbly cheese.  It was neat to learn how to involve almost all of your senses to truly taste the cheese.  (Only time I used my ears was to hear the squeak of the curd.)

    This tour will make my trips to the cheese counter take a lot longer because I found “cheeses” in Wisconsin and I’ll never be the same.

    Thank you again to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, Fortune Fish & Gourmet, all the creameries/dairies and most of all to my “tour mates”. I would have never finished this race without your encouragement and support. (See…I am a nice blogger!)

    (Thanks for helping with the pics, Ben)

    My bus buddy, Rah, executive chef at The Monkey's Paw.

    Special thank you to my bus buddy, Rah, executive chef at The Monkey’s Paw.  Honored to be part of your entourage.  Please Note:  Rah is holding a soda not beer.

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