Saturday, January 29, 2011

Pimp My Ride

Er, or, walker.
Big has a new walker!
It's very cool.
It has hand brakes and a seat.
It's red and it's fancy.

I can't leave well enough alone so for her birthday I decided
to trick out her ride. 
She now has a way cool bell and pretty pink streamers.
I'm fairly certain the streamers won't be a permanent fixture
but I feel very secure in the bell staying.
I know where the screwdriver is.
Mom, not so much :o)

One of the ladies at the party had a wine glass holder on hers.
I will not have my aunt out-done.
Amazon has them.
I also found a head light for it.

Pretty sure I can get enough goodies on this that
mom won't be able to pick the thing up to put it in the trunk.

Big will just have to run alongside the car.
Hey,,,,think I could get a motor for this thing?.....

Friday, January 28, 2011

Happy Birthday Big!

This is one of those posts when I sit down and know what
I want to write about but I'm just not sure where it will go.
So, here goes!
See that look on Big's face?
That's how interested she is in anything any of us has to say to her.
And she listens!
She never wanted us to call her "aunt" and I'm glad.
She's way more than the term "aunt" implies.
Big has been an additional mother and grandmother to all of us.
I'm very selfishly glad we didn't have to share her with other kids.

Big is the family historian.
Big is the family cheerleader.
Big is the family's heart.

I am very proud to be Little.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime?

In the arena of 
"Things You May Not Know About My Husband"
is this:
He wants your dimes.
That's it.
No big "save the world" plan here.
He wants your dimes.

He got this stroke of genius while watching a story on 
the news about some kid collecting pennies for some cause.
There's about three of these stories every year, aren't there?
But my husband's collection differs from these kids' on two fronts.

He want dimes, not pennies.
He wants them for himself.

I guess I should put in a disclaimer here that ten percent of
all money that comes into this household goes out to 
some charitable entity so he's really not some 
money hungry dime hoarding thug. 
Which makes his whole dime endeavor
that much funnier.
He's been at this for a couple of years now and we were
noticing that contributions this year are down from last. 
(oh, and for whatever reason, dime years run May to May)
(don't ask, I don't)
This box got filled a couple of times over the first year.
So, he and Lynne felt a little PSA was in order just to
re-ignite the passion for bringing dimes to Mike.

I'll keep the box by the front door for your convenience.

Flight of Meatloaf?

Oh yes you can!
So this isn't the best representation of this dish
but the restaurant was dark and I wasn't sure if this was cool or not.

Steve has requested a review of The Turf Room
and I aim to please.
I have been there a few times for lunch and probably as many 
times for dinner now.
I usually like to try out a new (to me) restaurant at lunch
when the menu is a little lighter (read: cheaper).
I am impressed every time with the creativity of the dishes and the 
fact that said creativity is matched by the flavor.
It's actually been about 6 months since the "Flight of Meatloaf"
so I'm a little vague on the specifics but it involved 
three different kinds of meat each on it's own potato concoction.

One lunch I had chocolate bacon waffles for dessert and
you know how I love my chocolate and bacon slapped together!
(can't seem to spell comingled)
Another time Mike and I went for dinner but didn't really feel 
like a heavy meal so we did an assortment of 
appetizers and a couple of desserts.
How the chef comes up with this stuff is beyond me.
I told our waiter that I would love to come and just hang 
out in the kitchen and watch their chef create. 
Turns out he's a young guy in his early 20's.
That night we had the 
Cheese Plate
Tres Hummus
Lobster Corn Dogs
and some special.
It was amazing! Some of the things come "deconstructed"
so you pull a fork full of whatever through a smear
of whatever else and make a whole new 
whatever whatever else!
Oh, and the hummus was served in a large round platter with a
ledge on it that had a drizzle of reduced balsamic on it so
if you dipped your pita with the hummus in the balsamic
you got a whole new level of wow!

OK, I have to stop but wait, you have to hear about the 
Carrot Cake Pancakes.
They even won out over the German Chocolate Bread Pudding.
And that was fantastic!

Here's the link for The Turf Room
It's kind of hard to find so if you need a navigator just call me.
You can buy me dinner as my fee :o)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Institutionalization of Lory

Or, how does one get to be 50 years old, having spent 
the better part of those 50 years in Illinois, and not have had
occasion to have visited The Art Institute?

Lory only told me of this travesty lately and it had
been preying on my mind ever since.
It was a real dilemma for me since I don't allow others
to accompany me to art museums since Honey's immortal words
spoken to me at the Louvre:
"Why is everybody looking at *that* one?
 That one over there has arms on it." 
Yep, he did.

So about once a year I would make a point of jumping
on the train and take myself to the Art Institute
for as much or as little time as I felt like roaming around.
There have been times when I have gone and sat and looked at this
painting and then gone home.
How did they get the white THAT white?

The world opened up to me the day I realized I didn't
have to commit an entire day. I can go down mid morning and be back
in time to make dinner.
I go by myself and walk as fast or as slow as I please.
I'm in a whole little world of my own.

But I had to save Lory!!!
And, actually, it had been quite a while since I roamed
downtown. It was time and Lory had last Monday off.
We had so much fun and really, the Art Institute was just
a reason for us to have our kind of fun.
(Oh, it is still standing)
Turns out I was able to introduce Lory to a few things that day.
The Art Institute.
 ?!Who knew!?
Half Onion Loaf
And a Hackney Burger on dark rye. 
She didn't get a choice in ordering. 
When did they put a Hackney's in downtown Chicago?

Oh, and one other little gem she wasn't aware of....
The bar in the train station makes Margaritas
TO GO!!!!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Beef Vindaloo

They only look like wasted weekends in front of the television.
It's called research.
I knew I liked Aarti from the start.
She was a contestant on 
The Next Food Network Star.
She has a smile and personality that just draws you in.
From what I understand she started out as a blogger, maybe?
Good news, I'm not so big a stalker that I researched her.
But this is not my point.

From the get go her food intrigued me.
I was lucky enough to catch one of her shows this past weekend.
She was making Beef Vindaloo, 
Cucumber Raita and a flat bread thing.
The good thing about watching someone cook as opposed to just reading a recipe is that what looks intimidating on the page is a piece of cake when demonstrated.
Really, "toasting" the spices and then grinding them?
Yeah, no big whup.
I knew saving that old coffee grinder was a good call.

I'll link the recipe here.

For whatever reason they are not posting her Cucumber Raita independently. It's 
linked with a lamb dish. But it's basically:
2 Cups plain yogurt
2 cups grated English cucumber
1 clove garlic, minced
4 sprigs mint leaves, finely minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons golden raisins
Mix that all together and you're good to go.
The raisins are a very fun sweet punch.

She did a great job on keeping the heat down 
so if you like a kick, go ahead and up the cayenne.
I did everything pretty much as written.
 I had to work a couple of hours this afternoon so I threw the completed 
vindaloo in the crock pot for about three hours. 
I think that dried out the beef a tad, so I wouldn't do that again. 
I didn't make the flat bread, it looked just too labor 
intensive for a Monday dinner so I bought a package of 
Naan bread. Pitas would probably work very well too. 
You just tear off a piece of bread and use it to scoop up a bit of meat
and a bit of the raita. Indra told me once that when eating Indian food, 
no two bites should be the same and 
each bite should be a perfect bite. 

Kind of a fun way to eat! 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Honey Turns 50

Sap Alert!
But, really, anybody who knows me knows that a post that includes
"Honey" is gonna get all sappy :o)
This was my gift to my husband on the event of his 50th birthday:
I have two challenges when it comes to "gifting" Honey.
First is his mantra, "Don't spend any money!"
Second, any gift worthy of a momentous event really needs to be
chosen by him. As in; guitar, car, motorcycle.

I did a variation on a theme that I have done before.
I made a list of 50 things I love about him and/or memories we share.
I decided to include the kids on it and they sent a few of their own.
I printed them all up and then cut them into strips and filled the box.
I had different colored hearts on the strips to denote who 
they were from. I wouldn't want him to think one of the kids liked
his nice butt. (hey, I had to come with 50!)
It was actually really neat to read what the kids came up with. 
One of Shanna's memories came all the way from the first
year Mike came into our lives. She was just 4!

And, why am I not surprised that this is how the box looked once Mike 
had read every slip of paper:
How much do I love him!!!???

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Preservation Bread and Wine

First, let me apologize for the photo.
I didn't take it and this is probably where I'm supposed to
mention the credit for the photo, but I'll be honest,
I just "borrowed" it from their Facebook page.
I don't think they'll mind.
I hope.

Mike and I went there for dinner last night for the first time.
It is a unique little place.
Emphasis on *little*.
They have a nice selection of wines along with
 "small plates" and cheese plates.
We kind of muddled our way through ordering the
Goat Cheese and Sundried Tomato Flatbread,
Pulled pork sandwich,
Macaroni and Cheese,
and their Bread Pudding for dessert.
They kind of just bring food out to you as it is ready.
The atmosphere really lends itself to relaxing and spending time.
We had a chance to talk to Lawrence, the owner, and I
told him that next time I would like to come in, order my wine
and have them pair foods with the wine I chose.
I'll just tell them when to stop!
He said they actually do have a few patrons who do that.
So, my original idea,
not so original :o)
But! A good one nonetheless!

So, go check this place out, just keep in mind that it
will not be a typical dining experience, but in a good way.

And while I am not a restaurant critic, there are a couple other
establishments that have my attention lately.
Mmmmm, Prasino,
Mmmmmm, The Turf Room....
Hey! How do you get that gig????

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Goat Cheese and Cherry Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

An experiment gone right!
Question: can you take these ingredients and turn them into dinner?
Answer, yes you can!

I have wanted to try this for a few days. 
Five Ingredient Fix had a stuffed pork chop recipe 
that sounded pretty good.
Except for the pork chop part.
What is it with pork chops?
They're always dry and chewy and there is always a 
sliver of bone floating around that I get.
Now pork tenderloin, that I can relate to.

I guess the only part of the original recipe I used
was the goat cheese. 
She used goat cheese, prunes 
(that she insisted on calling, "dried plums", cause we're all dumb)
and some nut.
Oh, and the nasty pork chop.
I used goat cheese, dried cherries,
(that really are dried cherries)
almonds and a pork tenderloin that I butterflied.

My cooking method of choice for pork tenderloins
is to brown them off in a skillet and then pop them in a 
375 degree oven for 20 minutes.
They come out perfect every time. 
Just a touch pink, and that's ok, somebody, somewhere, 
solved that whole trichinosis thing years ago. 

The potatoes are Giada's 
Fried Smashed Potatoes which are basically small potatoes
that you have boiled, let cool, flatten out with the
palm of your hand and then pan fry in some garlic
infused olive oil. 
I've tried a few of Giada's recipes and I think I'm 
going to have to get over the whole 
"don't hate me because I'm beautiful" thing.
The chick can cook. 

Those are parsnips and carrots that I roasted with some
balsamic. they were fine but not exciting. 

Oh, and if you noticed the cherry preserves and amaretto, 
I made a little glaze out of them for over the pork.

And now, maybe a little of that amaretto in my coffee?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Butternut Squash Cincinnati-Style Chili

You won't even miss the meat.
That's what the article says and it's right!
I found this recipe while sitting in my doctor's waiting room.
Like Mike said, you just never know where or when a great recipe
is going to cross your path.
This is from Family Circle's February issue.
You can go on their website and down load the recipe.

I actually roasted the squash yesterday but we got a last 
minute invitation to a friend's house for Bolognese. 
Squash can wait, anything Schley cooks is going to be amazing.
And it was. 
Having roasted the squash ahead of time served to make
assembling the chili tonight pretty easy.
The only thing I changed from the recipe as written
was the beans. I didn't have any pinto so I substituted a can each
of Northern and Kidney beans. 
Be warned, this makes a LOT, invite friends. 

I also made the Sweet Spiced Short Ribs
from the same magazine. 
That was amazing but I neglected to take a picture.
I do have a couple of things to note;
you cannot buys bone in short ribs
in the northern hemisphere.
You can buy a chuck roast anywhere.
I did.
I used it.
It was great.

Brown the roast off before you put it in the slow cooker.
Deglaze the pan with the tomato sauce and red wine vinegar
and pour over the meat.
When it's done cooking remove the meat and shred it.
Skim off the fat from the sauce and return the shredded meat to
the pot, mix it all with egg noodles.

There are a few more recipes from that magazine that I 
have in mind trying.
All in all I'd say it was a rather productive visit to the doctor.
Oh, and I got a flu shot too!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Aggie Does It Again

I've said it before and I'll say it again,
Aggie and I seem to be on the same page when it comes to food.
Every recipe she has turned me on to I have enjoyed.
If you are ever looking for something new to try head over to

There are a lot of good food blogs out there and sometimes 
it just seems overwhelming to sift through them all 
so anytime someone can
recommend one, I'm happy.
I actually came across Aggie by way of Facebook.
One of my friends had listed her on her Fans list.
Back when they had Fan lists.

From looking around Aggie's FB and her blog I came across
Refreshing Rooms (a Facebook page)
I have really enjoyed what these two ladies put out there. 

So, whereas I thought this was going to be a post about that fantastic
Mushroom Marsala with Garlic Herb Quinoa Pilaf
It seems to have turned into a shout out
to some of my favorite sites and a little
quick tip on narrowing your search for good sites.

But really, dinner last night was amazing.
Here's the link for the recipe.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Parenting Advice

Otherwise known as, 
You Get What You Pay For.
A blogger I follow, Sandy at Reluctant Entertainer 
(which is a misnomer because I'm pretty sure she loves to entertain), 
posed a question today;
 Do you make your bed every day?

You know a pretty straightforward question like that is going
to ricochet all over in my head.

Poor Grandma spent about every day of her senior years 
nagging at me to make my bed.
Sometimes successfully, but most times not.
I grew up and got married. 
To a neatnic.
I make our bed every day.

I did not, however, feel inclined to pester my 
children to make their beds.
I am of the opinion that they will have many years ahead of them 
in which to pursue this chore. 
As I wrote to Sandy, bedroom doors were made to be closed, 
so if company should come by,
close door,
 problem solved. 

And you may think that is my pearl of parenting wisdom but
in fact here is the pearl:
It's the bedroom doors and closing thereof,
or more to the point,
inability to!
Cue evil laugh....

Nothing will drive an adolescent more nuts than
removing their bedroom door!
I did it to each of my kids,
That's all it takes.
I can't even remember what infraction they
committed but boy did that door
off the hinges make an impact!
So there you have it.
Be very selective in your use of it.
You don't want to tip your hand all at once.

One other little gem;
pick your battles but then stick to your guns.
And keep in mind, like I stated,
when it comes to advice,
you get what you paid for :o)

Monday, January 10, 2011

She's Really Pretty And Has Too Many Teeth

Quick, name that Food Network star!
And, unfortunately, she can cook.
Honey and I spent the weekend vegetating in front of the 
television due to his horrific man cold.
Food Network was doing a "Healthy Eating"
 weekend in honor of the new year. 
I am not a fan of fish, yogurt or lemon
 but for some reason this looked appealing.
Maybe all those drugs in the air were affecting me.
I've run out of new vegetables to try. 
It was a loooong weekend. 

Well, Yum!
I'll say it again, YUM!!!

Oh, and yea, it was Giada. 
How much you wanna bet she's nice too. 

You know that saying that if something is really yours
and you set it free it will come back to you?

A couple of years ago my friend, Kimberly, introduced me to 
Vosges  Mo's Bacon Bars.
It was my first experience with chocolate and bacon
come together to play nice.

I have held on to the box from the chocolate all 
this time but in a fit of New Year's Organization,
I threw the box away. 
It was just taking up space anyway.

!!!!But look what came in the mail today!!!!!
I knew the movie was coming to me,
but not the chocolate!!!!

See, the universe wants me to have a Vosges
box in my house.
 It doesn't care if it's full or empty.
I think I can maintain a supply of this stuff
just by tossing the box when I'm ready for a refill. 

I'll let you know how my theory shakes out.
(btw, Thanks, Dirk)

Soliciting Suggestions!

And now:
The Acorn Squash!

I have to ask, is there anything that wouldn't taste good
once you've brushed on butter and sprinkled it with brown sugar?
These were good but I didn't think they had a very strong
flavor of their own. 
I would be interested in trying some other
 flavor profiles on them.
I was thinking right off the bat like a Southwest sort of bend.
But you could also go Indian, 
red pepper flakes,
garam masala.
Or, how about Moroccan,
red pepper flakes.

At this point parsnips, kale and acorn squash have earned their
way into my vegetable rotation.
My problem now is that I'm out of new ideas.
Any suggestions? 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Name That Vegie Part Two

Kale to the Chief
How pretty is this?
This was my first experience with the lacy stuff.
I was using Aggie's Stewed Kale and Tomatoes recipe. 
It says to chop the kale but didn't mention the pretty substantial rib
 that runs down each leaf so I made an executive decision and 
cut them out. 
I'm pretty sure that was a good call. 
I didn't have "cooking wine" so I used regular good old
"drinking wine". 
Pretty sure that was a good call as well. 
How beautiful is that color?
I took a picture because I was pretty sure it wasn't
 going to stay THAT green.
And it didn't.

Here's what I learned about kale.
You need to cook it to within an inch of it's life.
I took a taste midway through and it was very *chewy*.
The hit of sweet from the raisins was marvelous.
It will take on the ethnicity of any spice you pair it with. 
(at least I think it will)
Next time I'm going to try a Moroccan or Indian slant.
Served over quinoa with some parm on top makes a nice lunch.

Acorn Squash is my next victim but then 
I'm out of ideas. 
Any suggestions? 

Friday, January 7, 2011

This photo was taken the day we dropped Shanna
off at Butler for her freshman year.
No, that's not Shanna. 
But without planning it, this is the photo we took on 
Shanna's graduation weekend four years later.
In that time Michael went from being our little buddy
to being a young man.

And without planning it or even knowing to hope for it,
Shanna and Michael's relationship went from being 
pesky little brother and annoying big sister to two people 
with a bond that can never be broken or explained. 

During Shanna's Butler years she must have 
lived in 20 different locations.
Michael helped her with quite a few of those moves.
One year Michael went down to help her move into a new apartment.
He was pretty much over the whole experience of moving
his sister and was very vocal in letting us all
know he was about done being unpaid grunt labor.
He came home from that move and said he was uncomfortable 
with the neighborhood Shanna was in and he would be 
willing to go down the next weekend to move her somewhere else. 

Shanna loves her brother so much.
In almost every album of family gatherings
 you will find a picture like one of these. 
Shanna grabs her brother, wraps her arms around him and yells
for someone to take a picture. 

This was taken the morning of Michael's wedding. 

That weekend Michael came home and said he would sacrifice 
another entire weekend to ensure his sister's safety
I realized one thing and when I look at this picture I see the rest. 
I didn't know to look for it but it happened, 
Shanna will always have the protection of her brother,
and Michael will always have his sister's heart. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

In Search of A Few Good Vegetables

And to that end I present for your consideration 
the parsnip.

I don't know what Blog, magazine or cooking show
I saw this on but somewhere along the line it was
 brought to my attention.
The source told me the general flavor profile: think carrot.
It also told me how to choose a good one: again think carrot.

These are the two biggest pieces of information I need when venturing 
into new vegetable territory. 
What does it kind of taste like, which will lead me in how to cook it,
and, how do I know what a good one should look like?

I roasted some carrots the other night and they were fantastic
so I decided to mix carrots and parsnips to see what I would get.
I got yum!
I tossed the slices with olive oil, some salt and pepper and
threw in some smashed cloves of garlic for good measure.
I spread them out on  a parchment lined sheet at
 450 degree oven for 20 minutes.
I don't know if the parchment is absolutely necessary but I just
don't want a stuck on mess, I have the parchment, so why not?
Next time I'm going to add a little balsamic to the party.
I believe parsnips are a keeper!

My next adventure is going to be kale.
I looked for it at my grocery store but what I found was kinda limp.
Kale shouldn't be limp.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Thanks, Aldi!

Just because they come with long stems,
doesn't mean they have to *stay* long stems.

I just think if you have less than a dozen roses
they just look better *clustered*. 

To my way of thinking, 
if Aldi is going to offer 
me 6 roses for under 4 dollars, 
I am obliged to take them up on that offer. 
It's January.
It's 20 degrees outside.
These puppies match my family room. 
It had to be done. 
And at that price I can chop off those stems 
as short as I want! can too.....

Sunday, January 2, 2011

First One of The New Year!

Happy New Year!
I changed up the design here so if you (mom and Big) are
having any trouble reading this, drop me an e-mail.

Mike and I were sitting here watching a dismal game we shall call 
watching a dismal team we shall call
Da Bears, 
when I got the yearning for some fresh out of the oven cookies.
I think it was a cry for comfort food.

So I pulled these out:
And then it occurred to me that I don't believe I have shared
this little nugget of wisdom:
freezing your own raw cookie dough for baking later!

I use that great little scoop that I use to freeze left over tomato paste
but scoop cookie dough instead.
Lay the scoops out on a cookie sheet and freeze over night
then just pop them in a ziploc bag for later!
It's a great way to achieve portion control at the same time
getting fresh cookies without all the hassle.

Just put the frozen gems on a baking sheet and bake 375 degrees
for about 10 minutes, just like you would if they weren't frozen.

Didn't help Da Bears, but I feel better :o)