Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Crossing The Bridge...How A Good Chef Becomes Great

Each morning, on my way to school, I pass 7 bridges along the Chicago River -Franklin, Wells, LaSalle, Clark, Dearborn, State and the Wabash Avenue Bridge.Sometimes, I will randomly take a detour to see what is happening on the other side of the bridge. Is passing seven bridges a lucky omen? Sounds like it to me!

When I am in the mood to daydream, I jump on the water taxi. The water taxi operates between my train station at Madison and Canal and Michigan Avenue. For $2.00, you get one of the best boat rides in the city. It’s one little secret I can’t keep on getting around in the city. Sometimes it’s fun to pass underneath a bridge so you can see it from a different view.

In cooking, crossing the bridge is defined as passing over an obstacle to a place where you will try absolutely anything. Give me a recipe and I will master it – better yet – I will perfect it.

Crossing the bridge requires a lot of reading and study to prepare for what is on the other side. I read and “google explore” anything and everything I can about cooking, restaurants and the food scene in Chicago. I always try to stay abreast of new cooking trends. You must be an engaged adventurer to survive the other side of the bridge.

I use to hate baking but baking is another bridge for me right now. I suddenly have a passion for creating “to die for” desserts. I have two ways of defining great things to eat – there are those “to die for” recipes and those to “kill for” recipes. And although I am not ready to kill for any of my desserts just yet the more I learn about pastry, the closer I get.

With a lot of trial and error, I became confident in knowing how to pick both my recipes and substitutions. It takes a long time to get here and a lot of racked up failures to learn the art. But once you do, your friends and family will be begging you to cook the next family dinner…or the party celebrating something but they can’t really remember anything except how great your food is, how soon can they eat it and isn’t this a reason in itself to party?

I am planning on my brother Terry – the brilliant chef in our family- to cook dinner tomorrow on Thanksgiving day. I only see him a few times a year but I can always taste his food when I close my eyes and remember the many great meals I have shared at his table. Part of the fun for my brother is that he always has a great time in his kitchen. Rock and Roll and out of control – he will try anything. That is the sign of an amazing chef. Chefs always take risks and cross the bridge. And taking risks is what makes a good chef great!

With My Family from Minnesota – Hugs and Happy Thanksgiving!

Bon Appetit!

Chocolate....Now That I Have Your Attention

Nothing get’s my attention faster than if someone mentions chocolate. My friend Gina Dunn (the recipe expert) sent me this recipe for Warm Chocolate Melting Cups and said that it is one of her all time favorites. If she likes it, it is a great bet that you will, too.

I have also posted the recipe below for Chocolate Whiskey Pudding. I have been making this recipe for years and it is also one of my personal favorites.

Both of these desserts are a great compliment to any holiday dinner.

Baked Chocolate Whiskey Pudding

Serves 6-8

Prep Time: 20 Minutes Plus Baking

1 C Sifted all-purpose flour

1 ¼ C granulated sugar

5 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa

2 tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

½ C milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

½ C light brown sugar, firmly packed

¼ C whiskey, preferably Jack Daniel’s Green Label

Whipped cream

Preheat the oven to 350. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, 2/3 C of granulated sugar, 2 Tbsp of the Cocoa, the baking powder and salt. Mix thoroughly.

Stir in the melted butter, milk and vanilla. Mix until smooth. The mixture will be very thick.

Spray a 1 ½ quart soufflé dish or oven proof bowl with nonstick vegetable coating.

In a bowl, combine the remaining granulated sugar, the remaining 3 Tbsp cocoa and the brown sugar. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the batter.

In a small bowl, combine the whiskey with ¾ C water and pour over pudding.

Bake for 35 minutes or until a thin crust forms on the top.

Remove from oven and invert the pudding onto a serving platter or spoon into bowls. Serve warm with whipped cream.

Warm Chocolate Melting Cups

Serves 10

1-1/4 c. sugar, divided

1/2 c. baking cocoa

2 T. flour

1/8 tsp. salt

3/4 c. water

3/4 c. + 1 T. semisweet chocolate chips

1 T. brewed coffee

1 tsp. vanilla

2 eggs

1 egg white

In a small saucepan, combine 3/4 c. sugar, cocoa, flour and salt. Gradually stir in water. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat; stir in chocolate chips, coffee and vanilla.

In a mixing bowl, beat eggs and egg white until foamy. Gradually add remaining 1/2 c. sugar, beating until thickened and lemon colored.

Fold completely into chocolate mixture.

Transfer to 10 ramekins sprayed with cooking spray. Place ramekins in a baking pan; add 1" boiling water to pan. Bake, uncovered, at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until centers are just set. Serve warm.

Monday Night...Chopped Salad To The Rescue

I hate Monday and the last thing I want to do on Monday night when I get home is to cook. This is my quick and easy for a Monday night dinner. On Sunday I cook extra of everything so I have some great leftovers for my dinner the next day. I am always back to cooking dinner again on Tuesday but on Monday - honestly I just can’t do it! Monday is my day off from both exercise and cooking.

I chop up a lot of vegetables. By chop I mean chop really small. Throw absolutely anything into the mix. I chop a different variety of vegetables every week and they will keep fresh for 4-5 days. I store them in a Tupperware container and put them over lettuce for an easy chopped salad with some ditalini or on a baked potato for a meatless dinner. I’m sure to get my daily requirement of vegetables when I do this. It forces me to eat healthy. So my great meal tonight took all of 10 minutes. I may hate Monday’s but I love my easy Monday dinners.

The vegetable chopper I have is wonderful. It is spring loaded and I bought it at my resale store for $3.00. Chops up everything quickly and tiny, tiny. If you get one of these, you will swear it is one of those kitchen tools you cannot live without. In a matter of minutes you have some quick and easy meals for the week!

Chop Chop!

Loring Kitchen and Bar

Here are some terrific eats we had the other night at the Loring Kitchen and Bar at 1359 Willow St S, Minneapolis, MN 55403 (612) 843-0400

Fried Chicken Pizza
Clove honey cream, Tillamook cheddar, marinated
fried chicken topped with house made coleslaw.

Seared Jumbo Scallop
with roasted beets and goat cheese.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts
with thick cut bacon and Maytag bleu cheese.

I have never been a fan of brussel sprouts but these were fantastic. Great atmosphere and service and LOVED the location.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Apicius: If I Can't Be Italian At Least Let Me Cook Like One!

                                                                                Photos by David Weiss

If I were to go to cooking school I’m sure it would not be in France as many of my friends have done but rather in Italy. Since I discovered that I love to cook, I have been plotting to come back in my next life as an Italian. No other nationality knows how to cook or enjoy food and wine more than the Italians do!

When I think of Italian chefs, I think of cooks who are both fiery and passionate. Like Roberto Farnesi, the guy in the Barilla TV ads. He makes every woman want to pack it off to Italy and study cooking.

Let’s face it, only Italians know how to have dinner. You know, the dinners that last for at least four hours and really give you a chance to spend time with family and friends. Nothing is better than the social scene at the Italian dinner table.

I love the fact that Italians are deep-rooted in tradition. My friend Letty tells me that her grandmother wore a black dress every day for a year after her grandfathers funeral. Even the family dog embraces the Italian way of life. Mammina speaks to him in Italian and of course, he understands absolutely every word!

A crowd is defined by an Italian as a “small” gathering. No matter what – they always have room to fit one more person and their entire family at the table. I love the fact that everyone is welcomed at the Italian table and for this reason alone, I always wanted to be Italian!

Italians appreciate food and never have to worry about gaining an ounce of weight…after all, the curves are what make women attractive to those Italian men who love to flirt. Love to flirt or a national past time? You tell me? It is one of the ingredients that make up the charm and mystery of being Italian. And for the rest of us who don’t have a drop of Italian blood running through our veins? Well…we’ll just have to settle for being a friend of or married to.

My friend Sophia told me that if you are Italian, killing a pig and having salami, capacollo, pancetta and prosciutto suspended from your basement ceiling is completely normal. You also believe that no fruit or vegetable or any produce for that matter has a fixed price because the price of everything is negotiable.

Eating is the center of their universe and all things eating and drinking are of major importance to the Italian – especially the vino. I do love wine and for that fact alone I will proclaim again that I should be a little Italian. Like most Italians, I have not met a grape that I do not love. Give me a glass of wine and a few dozen hours of conversation and you will be my sorella forever.

So all of this “conversation” brings me back to going to cooking school in Italy.

While a lot of cooking school’s are reviewing their programs, costs and student loans, Apicius ( is talking about and placing value on the significance of the student’s connection and contribution to the community in Florence, Italy where they conduct classes. One such example is the professional internship program at Ganzo Cultural and Gastronomic Association, a place where cultures and communities join forces to have a direct impact. Apicius is clearly entrenched in the city of Florence. The Chamber recently honored Gabriella Ganugi, the schools founder, with an award for female entrepreneurship. And speaking of Gabriella, you will have a rather intimate experience with her when you read the school’s literature that describes Gabriella as an architect; lover of secret Renaissance gardens and forgotten recipes. Yes – I’m pretty sure that I am packing my bags! It’s the “secret” Renaissance gardens that captured me!

Apicius recently hosted a James Beard dinner in the garden of the Beard House in New York. Guests included some of their affiliate partners. If you look on their website they have a lot of outstanding colleges participating in their program. Among special guests attending the dinner were my favorite food critic Mimi Sheraton and artist/author Soheir Kashoggi whose exquisite books include Mirage, Mosaic, and Nadia’s Song.

Take a quick peek at what they prepared for the dinner:

Finger Foods

Pecorino with Honey

Bicchierino di Pappa al Pomodoro con Spuma di Patate e Calamari al Peperoncino > Tuscan Bread Soup with Potato Foam, Calamari, and Chile Pepper

Crostino Pane Burro e Acciuga > Butter and Anchovy Bruschetta

Crostino di Carciofi Gratinato alle Erbette > Artichoke and Herb Gratin Bruschetta

Finger foods paired with: Podere La Marronaia Visila Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG 2008

Dinner Courses

Terrina di Melanzane e Pomodoro sul Velo di Basilico > Eggplant and Tomato Terrine with Basil Sauce
Wine pairing: Antinori Vermentino Bolgheri DOC 2008

Tortelli Maremmani di Ricotta di Pecora ed Erbette di Campo sul Sugo di Carne e Salsiccia > Sheep’s-milk Ricotta–Filled Tortelli with Beef and Sausage Ragù
Wine pairing: Antinori Vermentino Bolgheri DOC 2008

Pappardelle alle Scorzette sul Ragù d’Anatra e Ginepro > Pappardelle with Duck and Juniper Ragù
Wine pairing: Campinuovi Sangiovese Montecucco DOC 2007

Cinghiale in Umido > Wild Boar Stew
Wine Pairing: Valdifalco Loacker Morellino di Scansano DOCG 2007

Crostata di Ricotta al Profumo d’Arancio > Miniature Ricotta Tarts with Orange Sauce orange sauce
Wine Pairing: Campinuovi Sorie Vendemmi Tardiva Maremma Toscana IGT 2006

This is one dinner I missed but can only imagine what it was like to savor everything especially the Miniature Ricotta Tarts with Orange Sauce. That sounds like a “die for dessert” that I would have no problem knocking off in a matter of minutes.

Apicius has two locations in Florence:


Corso Tintori 21-50122 Florence Italy

ph.: +39 055/ 033 2727


Via Guelfa 85, 114, 116 - 50129 Florence Italy

ph.:+39 055/2658135

Contact the school by emailing them at

While you are there, be sure to visit San Lorenzo and Mercato Centrale (the market is sometimes called Mercato di San Lorenzo). This small wedge of streets between the train station and the Duomo, centered on the Medici's old church of San Lorenzo and its Michelangelo-designed tombs, is market territory. The immense indoor food market is here and it is one of the premium food markets in all of Italy.

Apicius purchases many of their fresh food products from the market and maintains a close relationship with major purveyors such as Baroni cheese ( They are an important stop for their market tours that take in all of the local food culture. If you look at Baroni’s website, it gives a detailed history of the market.

Apicius location in Via Guelfa has a close "geographical" tie with the market. Coincidentally, the culinary facilities of Apicius are located in the San Lorenzo neighborhood and this gives their students very close access to the vibrant gastronomic life that goes on in the area. This little section of Florence is hallowed ground for anyone who loves to cook or eat. Where else can you mix with the locals and experience all of the Italian flavors that make this food market another study semester all its own.

Certainly when you come back in your next life as that Italian chef, you can whip up a little Crostata di Ricotta al Profumo d’Arancio. Promise you’ll get my vote for a James Beard Awards next year.

Buon appetito!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ben Pao's Restaurant

I have been eating at Ben Pao’s for over 12 years. The blend of China's four great regional cuisines: stimulating full-bodied Mongolian; light Cantonese; uncomplicated, hearty Shanghai; and daring, alluring and hot-spicy Sichuan make this restaurant a fantastic place to investigate the Asian.

I ordered the Bundle, which was a great deal at $10.95. What I got was a lot of food - a vegetable egg roll (delicious – one of the best in Chicago), Hot and Sour Soup and Sesame Chicken. My son loves the Sesame Chicken so much we always have to get an order and a half just to satisfy his appetite.

A lot of restaurants do not come close to the quality of the fresh ingredients and you can always find something on the menu that will astonish you. They list their Specialties as Black Peppered Sea Scallops, Shanghai Shrimp, Penang Curry Chicken, 7 Flavor Beef, Egg Rolls, BBQ Pork Shoulder and Sichuan Wrinkled Beans. I have had them all and LOVE them! Eat in the bar as the atmosphere is sunny and great people watching!

Ben Pao’s is at 52 West Illinois in Chicago.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Pilsen - My Kind Of Neighborhood!

I have spent so much time in Mexico I never felt the need to check out the Pilsen neighborhood until yesterday. My travel expenses for this day trip from the suburbs was a mere $4.50 and a 10 minute ride on the pink line from the downtown Clinton stop. Two stops later you are in the heart of Pilsen.

To be able to get to one of the many ethnic neighborhoods from downtown in a matter of minutes is one of the things I LOVE most about Chicago! Outstanding, inexpensive diversions are so easy to get to.

The second that I got off the El, I knew I was at home. The murals in the 18th Street station are amazing. Honestly, I could have been wandering around Tonola, Toluca or any other small town in Mexico. It is an old, inviting neighborhood - both innocent and insightful.

Everyone was so friendly and people actually smiled and greeted you when you looked at them. Yes, and just like Mexico, Mexican are some of the most friendly people in the world.

The Café Jumping Bean at 1439 W 18th St is a charming, corner coffee shop. The artwork is everywhere - from the toilet seat in the bathroom, to the tables, to all the walls. I love all of the multicolored, mismatched chairs. You get a real sense of the neighborhood here so this is a great place to start out with a quick cup of coffee or just to drink in the local flavor.

Wandering up and down 18th street, I found a number of fantastic places to eat (with a whole lot of coaching from my friends)

Carnitas Don Pedro

1113 W 18th St, Chicago

Can you believe that I was stuffing my face at 10:30 AM? Just like in Mexico, I remember how much I loved this food in the morning. My little place in Toluca was great but this place – I can hardly recall the last time I had a meal this good.

A huge plate of pork (honestly, it was enough to serve 3-4), homemade tortillas, a variety of condiments, and pickled spicy veggies. Pork is hard to cook and can be very dry. This pork was so succulent and incredibly delicious. I peeked in the back where enormous pots were animated with the snouts of pigs rising to the top. Trust me, I was in hog heaven!

You can order carnitas by the pound and choose if you want them mixed - maciza (leaner meat), boronas (bits and small chunks that are very well done), or cuerito (fatty pork with skin). I always order boronas because they're brimming with flavor.

You won't be spending much here - just $6.00 and you'll be full for days. No kidding, I am writing this post a day later and I still can’t think about eating.

Hardly anyone speaks English so I did use my Spanish but if you can smile and say Carnitas you will eat.

I’m told that there is always a long wait on weekends and they often run out so perhaps it is best to come here during the week. Actually, 10:30 AM was the ideal time to pig out.

Nuevo Leon

1515 W 18th St, Chicago

Nuevo Leon is easy to spot - just look for the most colorful building on the street. This place is well-known for its food and my Mexican friend at school told me this is her favorite place.

There was a huge mix of people here and they all looked like regulars from families, grandmothers, business men, yuppies, laborers - you name it, it seems that they all come here to eat.

Three huge carne asada (steak) tacos for $5.00? Can’t believe that I can get all of this good food for so cheap… or that I am actually eating again!

There is a wide variety of food on the menu and you will leave this place absolutely full to the brim. This was categorically my second and last meal of the day. All of the other restaurants I planned to visit were just wait-listed.

The highlight of my trip to Pilsen was the National Museum of Mexican Art located at 1852 W. 19th Street, just one block over from the commercial district and near a beautiful little park. In the years that I have lived, worked and gone to school in Mexico, I have learned to love all things Mexican but I was not prepared to be blown away by the surprising mix of media in the Museum’s permanent collection. I loved it so much I wanted to touch each and every piece. Somehow I sensed the guard knew that when he gave me this untrustworthy glare.

I was lucky to be there while two amazing exhibits were going on - The Day of The Dead (there was an entire white altar which totally set me back since white is my favorite color) and the brilliant Mujeres de Juarez exhibit which is a tribute to the more than 500 women who have been killed in Cuidad Juarez.

In my opinion, The National Museum of Mexican Art is one of the best in Chicago. It truly moved me and for anyone who is an artist or loves Mexico, the museum is required.

One tiny shop I found on my way back to the train station is Oxala Chicago at 1653 W. 18th Street. You’ll see some of the most original items in this shop. The charming owner (believe me ladies, he is stunning) is from Columbia and has been in Pilsen for over 5 years. He is the artist in residence and has a number of other artists at the shop and a beautiful selection of jewelry. Just going in to see him is worth the trip!

Pilsen – I have now tagged it at as my delicious refuge for good, cheap carnitas, tortas, enchiladas, tostadas, and tamales. There are so many outstanding cheap eats and grocery stores in this neighborhood you could spend years trying to cover them all. It was by far the best day trip I’ve taken to Chicago all year. Any time I need a quick dose of the “real” Mexico I’ll be on the pink line headed back to the next restaurant on my list.


Food Buzzwords for 2010

According to the Baltimore Sun, the Food Buzzwords for 2010 are:

Authentic Neapolitan pizza. Lamb riblets. Too many food trucks, not enough curb space. Farmed trout creeps up on farmed salmon. Curry- and Indian-spiced fried chicken. Vietnamese sandwiches - the bahn mi (see my posts on Vietnamese food. I guess I was ahead of the trend!). Gelati. Global comfort food. Artisan hot dogs. Made-to-order ice cream. Chefs turned butchers. Casual comfort. Touch-screen kiosks and home delivery in fast food outlets. Latino street food. Wood oven cooking. More energy drinks and adulterated waters. Mood food. Backyard and rooftop bee hives. Stevia. Kimchee. Urban farms. Griddled burgers. Free food. House-made everything, especially in sandwiches.

Sorry, you will not catch me having bee hive's any time soon – I’ll leave that to the real foodies!

In The Raw!

I love the fact that everyone is getting on the food bandwagon these days. Hop aboard! If it isn’t about something you have cooked, it’s all about the great dinner you had over at sister Mary’s house last week. Your brother-in-law Phil happens to be the chef that everyone wants in their own kitchen. He can be for a price. He is however not giving out any of his recipes - I am certain of it! It’s the TLC and his heritage that makes his brand of cooking the best in my world. Believe me, I can try to cook his recipes and they do not even taste the same. May have something to do with the fact that I don’t have a drop of Italian blood running through my veins.

One of the women I am in school with did not realize what she could do until she discovered that everyone loved her pound cakes and she could cook those cakes instead of being in an office from 8-5. Love that food gives people creative options to make a living and also have a whole lot more fun.

I ride the train with a friend whose mother cooks a new recipe every day and sends it out to all of her friends. Although I am now on her email list, I will confess that this woman happens to be at the top of my A list. That takes dedication and a whole lot of talent to do this day in and day out. I thought that my new recipe every Sunday was impressive with over 2,000 and counting but I don’t even come close. There are thousands of women out there who do this every day just for the love of it. I acknowledgment you and encourage you to keep it going. So many people have become great cooks because of you and you probably don’t even realize it.

My friend Marlene sends me blog -worthy material every week. I love friends like her who feed my desire to bring you the newest, best and sometimes funniest information out there to make your own cooking talents a thing that you can share with your own universe.

Although a lot of it has to do with the state of the economy right now, more of it has to do with the fact that the internet has made cooking, eating and sharing food with friends so available. There are food blogs, recipe sites, meetups, restaurant reviews with reader feedback…OMG, the list is endless. TV show like Rachael Ray, Martha Stewart, Diners, Drive Ins and Dives, One Plate at a Time and Check Please. I watch each and every show and take notes religiously – is that something that only foodies do? You tell me and yes…I know I have to get over that! Give me about 20 years.

Cooks are also highly educated these days traveling abroad, going to cooking classes, reading vintage and contemporary cookbooks, following current trends and also previous generations. Just trying to duplicate my grandmother’s butter Christmas cookie recipe has kept me an inspired cook for years.

Since I started connecting with people all over the world to do a series on international cooking schools (one coming up next week), I have discovered that our world is teeny-tiny! Yep - can you imagine that a foodie from Bali can connect to introduce me to the world of raw food? Raw Food? Get out of here! I did not have a clue about raw food until I connected with Diana.

Raw? …now I am just trying to digest it all.

Bon Appetit!

Shuckers - The Fairmont Olympic Hotel Seattle - I Still Dream About It!

I had one of the very best local Dungeness Crab Cocktails here and still dream about it. We hit Shuckers every day for lunch when I was in Seattle. It’s difficult to beat the atmosphere, price and the quality any place in downtown Seattle. The dark woods of Shuckers are classic and I love the warm environment on a cold winter afternoon after walking around Pike’s Market all morning. The service is always friendly and there are over 13 varieties of oysters to be shucked from around Puget Sound and served up in Olympic fashion: baked, raw, smoked or Provencal to name a few. Between the specials and a frequently changing menu there's always a prospect here for an adventure. Shuckers has earned its long-standing, quality reputation and you will not be disappointed in either the outstanding food and presentation or the cozy atmosphere of this restaurant.

Michelle Obama's Garden Is About To Become A Culinary Combat Zone!

                                                                                                                                   AP Photo

Michelle Obama's vegetable garden is about to become a culinary combat zone.

The Food Network announced that an episode of "Iron Chef America" will be taped at the White House kitchen featuring Mario Batali, Bobby Flay and Emeril Lagasse.

The three chefs, joined by White House chef Cristeta Comerford, and will be greeted by the first lady and permitted to use anything found in the garden to help create their meals. That sounds like a challenge that even Mario, Bobby and Emeril may have to contemplate for awhile.

The competition will then go back to the network's Kitchen Stadium in New York, where Flay and Comerford will face-off against Batali and Lagasse to produce five dishes showcasing the ingredients.

The Quick and Easy

I wanted a quick and easy meal tonight because I have a lot of homework and don’t have much time to cook. I stopped in at the new Caputo Cheese Market at 777 N Bank Lane in Lake Forest. I picked up a package of their homemade cheese ravioli and some great Italian bread.

The first thing I did when I got home was to take out my magic wand and zap all of the calories out of the bread. Hey, it’s the weekend. I cheat – remember?

I have homemade red sauce that I keep in small containers in my freezer. I put some in a bowl (yes- those great little prep bowls I cannot live without). The ravioli’s took all of 5 minutes in a saucepan of boiling water. I skip the salt. 2 minutes in the microwave and the sauce was ready. I threw together a low fat Caesar salad with sundried tomatoes. I found my skinny plate. On this plate, it looks like I am having a huge dinner when in fact I am eating very small portions. Half of the reason I love my meals is that they look so great. It’s all about making the food look good.

My cheat weekend dessert was another little heavenly treat from Gerhard's that Mary slipped into my box yesterday. How great was this – layers of mousse and whipped cream topped with pears. Could I love cheating any more than Gerhard’s? If you are going to blow your calories or save calories during the week to spend on a weekend extravagance my absolute first choice is Gerhard’s. A girl that stays home on a Saturday night has to have some fun!

Yes, and I Love Desserts has a Facebook following. Go to:

How great is it to get meals like this in under 30 minutes? I am all about the quick and easy!

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


This is a healthy and easy yogurt recipe that can make a great after dinner or early morning treat. Sorry..going to pile the healthy on you again. Honestly, if you get use to eating this you will LOVE the flavors. One of the first foods I got healthier on was yogurt.

Granola Yogurt Parfait

½ Cup Raspberries or other favorite berry

¾ Cup Vanilla low-fat yogurt

2 TBSP. low-fat Granola

Into a parfait glass or wineglass, spoon some raspberries, vanilla yogurt and granola. Repeat layering until all ingredients are used. Looks beautiful and tastes great!

Potato Soup

Here is a soup recipe passed down in my family for generations. My mother hand wrote this recipe so I am remembering how good this soup is when it’s cooked on a cold winter night by someone you love!

Know my grandmother would be happy that I shared it with you:

Potato Soup

Peel 3-4 medium potatoes, dice and cook until almost done (5-10 minutes) in water just to cover potatoes.

In a small bowl, put 1 ½ Tbsp. of flour. Add enough water to make a thin paste. Add 1 samll carton half and half and stir to smooth.

Add potatoes (do not drain) and stir until boiling – simmer 5 minutes.

Add 2-3 eggs drizzled into soup and cook another 5-7 minutes.

Now the most important ingredient: Add vinegar to taste. I love lot's of vinegar!

Can also add fresh green beans to this recipe for the Uncle Don’s version. Delicious!

Chicken...A Quick And Easy Meal...Again!

I'm in school so I don't have much time to cook during the week. Here is another quick and easy meal on my indoor grill which takes less than 5 minutes to clean after use.

A pre-seasoned chicken breast from the Daily Grind ($2.98) goes on thr grill along with a slice of the pineapple and onion (it's all about using the leftovers). Chop up some leftover veggies - Tomatoe, onion, green pepper and some fresh herbs and serve along with a side salad of chopped veggies - tonight it is cauliflower, mushrooms, brocolli, radish, marinated mushrooms, green beans and shallots served over lettuce and spinach. Top with olive oil and Balsamic Vinegar along with a little salt and pepper.

It's all about making it look really good to eat. I serve these small portions on a long skinny plate...remember, Looking Good = Tasting Good!

I sit down with a glass of wine and savor every bite. Eat slowly and really enjoy the fact that you cooked another really healthy, quick and cheap meal in about a half hour!

Bon Appetit!

Monday, November 2, 2009

What's So Remarkable About Chicago...Besides The Skyline?

What’s so remarkable about being in Chicago… If you are a foodie, Chicago is definitely one of the best food towns to be in and here is why…

Access to great food: Ben Pao, Carlos, Catch 35, Charlie Trotters, Frontera Grill, Gibsons, Heaven On Seven, Le Colonial, Red Light, and Shaws…just to name a few.

Markets that make ingredients accessible: Fox and Obel, Trader Joe’s and every local Farmers Market out there including  Lake Bluff and the Green City Market.

Artisan stores dedicated to singular perfection: The Spice House, Paulina Market, Pastoral, and Caputo Cheese Market…can I go on?

An exciting wine scene and interesting sommeliers: Belinda Chang, Douglas Marello, Chad Ellegood, and my favorite host of “Check Please” Alpana Singh.

Sophisticated cocktail programs and bar chefs: We all know NACIONAL 27 is at the top of this list…and there are at least a hundred more.

Young chefs with fresh ideas: Jessica Lane of Jam, Chuy Valencia of Chilam Balam , Shaw Las of XOCO, Matt Troost of Fianco and so many others bringing ground-breaking ideas to your table.

Destination restaurants: Carnivale, CocoPazzo, Mike Ditka's Restaurant, Spiaggia, and Tavern On Rush (one of my favorites) and hundreds of others.

Maverick chefs: We have a ton of them and I think you know who they are…famous and mega-famous…that being Rick Bayless.

Outstanding street food: You can find everything and anything here…from the hot dog (Superdawg Drive-In) to XOCO’s Conchinita Pibil. We could pick a dozen places to eat street and still have enough left over for next week… and the week after…and the week after that!

So, let us know why you are convinced that Chicago is the best city for a foodie to be.

Email me at

Love Chicago!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Love The Quick And Easy...

I love Sunday night because I usually have time to cook but after an 8 hour study day today, the last thing I wanted to do was to cook a meal. I pulled out all my shortcuts tonight and put together a delicious, healthy meal in about a half hour. Here is how I did it…

My indoor grill saved the day again. It always does, especially when it is too cold to cook outdoors. It is possibly the best and most used tool in my kitchen.

I went to my local Meat and Seafood Market – The Daily Grind- and picked out a 3 oz. piece of salmon. Perfect size to have on a Sunday night after cheating all weekend. It already had a lime pepper seasoning on it (Rick from the Daily Grind seasons a lot of his cuts and they are delicious) and I added a marinate of soy sauce, ginger, orange juice and sesame oil and let it sit for 30 minutes.

I picked up a fresh pineapple earlier in the day at my local grocery store for $1.99. I cut a thick slice, sprayed “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” on both sides and cooked it on the grill along with a slice of sweet onion, which I had leftover from Friday night.

I threw a little of the leftover onion into a relish of chopped tomato and chilantro and set that aside in a small bowl (I have a ton of little prep bowls I just could not live without).

During the week, I boil a batch of potatoes (for me it’s just 2 large russets) and rice them (for any of you who do not know what riced potatoes are take a peek at I put them into a large Tupperware container and for the rest of the week, it is a very quick side. For instance, tonight, I grated a little smoked gouda on them along with some chives and heated in up in the microwave along with my tomato relish. This is a very fast side that you can easily change up.

This was a delicious, economical and healthy meal in a matter of minutes.

Let me know if you have any magnificent meals you can cook in minutes.

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Bon Appetit!