Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 - The Year In Food

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Happy Holidays From Our Kitchens To Yours!

May all your dreams come true in 2011.

P.S. Dream Big!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Will The Real Master Cookie Chef Please Stand Sideways?

Making To-Die-For- Cookies!

We made 4 rounds of chocolate covered Oreos.

Which was the better cookie?

Honestly, I loved them all so Bon Appetit to the cookie chef who has mastered the art of the to-die-for-cookie!

Bon Appetit and I'll have a few dozen more please!

It Was A Southern Christmas...And Perfect I Might Add!

It was a perfect Oklahoma Christmas...everything football and chicken fried. More later on this week.

I am convinced that you just can't get anything better than a Southern Christmas and it's a special kind of hospitality you don't ever want to miss.

Take a deep breath and dive in because that's what I did and I've never appreciated "all things Southern" more than I did this past week.

I will admit that fighting off the food demons in the South is much bigger challenge.

Yep, the Chicken Fried Chicken and the red beans and rice really did me in.

Bon Appetit and Cheers To A Southern Christmas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

17 Degrees And Warming At Maxwell Street Market

I don't often shop in 17 degree weather but this was a mission.

I looked for all my old favorites down at Maxwell Street Market this morning and found only the die-hards so I picked a new one – Manolos. Even the Churros truck was MIA.

Good thing the old favorites were not here because it forced me to try some new stalls and I do love trying new spots. I even tried a little tongue which was not half bad but I couldn’t bring myself to order a whole taco with Bonnie babbling about animal rights in the background.

The Pastor was perfectly spiced and I especially loved the central heater which made for warmer feasting.

I wanted to find out what it was like to eat outside in the 17 degree weather and just as I thought, once my Pastor taco was gone, so was I.

                                                                          On my iphone by Bonnie Urban

                                                    Bon Appetit and Happy Holidays!

Short Rib Fried Rice

I’ve been famished for an Urban Belly lunch for so long but couldn’t get over there this week so I looked for a Bill Kim recipe on the internet. I only found only one but this one is definitely a keeper.
For anyone who loves the flavor of short ribs, you will be amazed how good it is over a simple plate of fried rice. I have never been a real lover of fried rice until I had this recipe. Some of the flavors, like the addition of the fish sauce, pineapple and lime to the mix, are remarkable. I enjoyed the leftovers as much as the main dish.

Before I forget, I am signing the petition for Bill Kim to publish a cookbook. I would be in line right now if I knew that was going to happen because I am seriously addicted to his cooking.

I was really surprised when I took the first bite because the combination of flavors was so amazing I ate two helpings… and I rarely go for seconds.

What’s great about this recipe is that you can mix it up and pile on any veggies that you happen to feel like eating – you do like your vegetables don’t you?

Make sure that you have the butcher cut the short ribs super thin so they will cook in a few minutes because I am use to cooking short ribs slow so this was a new recipe for me. Even the butcher thought it was strange and he was the one that suggested they be cut thin. He was so right. They cooked on my indoor grill in no time at all.

This recipe looks complicated because there are so many steps but I made it in about 45 minutes. Anything under an hour in my book is a recipe worth repeating…especially when it is this good.

Also, about these ribs on my indoor grill. One bite and you would be convinced that an indoor grill is the one thing you need to add to your Christmas list.

Bon Appetit!

Short Rib Fried Rice
Yield: 2 people
Total prep time: 20 minutes (active); 24-hour marinade

Basmati Rice

Cook time: 15 minutes

1 cup Basmati rice

1 ½ cups water

Place rice in a 2-quart sauce pot, and add water.

Bring to heat, and cook rice on medium-high flame for about 15-17 minutes, or until the rice is tender to the bite.

Marinated Short Ribs
Prep time: 20 minutes

1 ½ cups water

¾ cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons light (untoasted) sesame oil

½ cup brown sugar

¼ cup white sugar

¼ cup onion, chopped

¼ cup garlic, chopped

½ pound Korean-style short ribs

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1. Combine the water, soy sauce, sesame oil, and sugars in a saucepot, and heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved.

2. Remove from heat and add garlic and onion, stirring to combine. Allow mixture to cool. Transfer mixture to a blender or use a handheld blender to purée mixture until smooth.

3. With a tenderizing mallet, pound the short ribs as thin as possible but taking care not to tear the meat. Place the pounded meat into a plastic container or resealable plastic bag.

3. Spoon cooled marinade over short ribs, cover or seal, and refrigerate overnight.

4. The following day, place a wok or pan over medium-high heat and add vegetable oil, swirling to coat. Remove short ribs from marinade and add to pan. Sauté short ribs for 2-3 minutes, turning once. Remove the short ribs from the pan and set to the side, keeping warm.

Fried Rice

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 large egg

1 tablespoon scallions, sliced

1 ½ teaspoons garlic, minced

1 ½ teaspoons fresh ginger, minced

1 teaspoon garlic chili sauce (sambal)

1 teaspoon fresh or frozen lemongrass, minced

1 tablespoon fresh pineapple, diced

1 cup cooked basmati rice (see recipe above)

2 tablespoons fish sauce

1 tablespoon lime juice

¼ teaspoon fresh grated lime zest

1. Place a wok or pan over high heat. When pan is very hot, add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Crack the egg into the pan and, using a fork, scramble the egg.

2. Once egg is scrambled, add all ingredients except the fish sauce, lime juice, and lime zest. Stir mixture constantly, taking care not to allow them to burn.

3. When the rice is fragrant, after 45 seconds to 1 minute, add the fish sauce and lime juice, and stir to combine all ingredients. Remove from heat.

4. Spoon fried rice into two bowls, and sprinkle with grated lime zest. Lay warm short ribs over the rice, and enjoy!

Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup

I love Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup. I can double dose on it and swear it’s the best PX out there for the flu…or the winter blahs and I think I have both this week!

This is another catch-all recipe as you can throw just about anything in it.

The art of this soup is in the presentation and how you place the ingredients in the soup bowl.

Like anything, practice makes perfect and by the time you’ve made it three or four times, you’re a master!

Bon Appetit!

1 chicken

3 lbs chicken bones

1 tbs salt

1 tbs sugar

1 fresh ginger - roasted/charred

1 onion –charred

(Note: charring the ginger and onion will give it a naturally sweet, full-bodied flavor)

In a soup pot, add the roasted onion, chicken bones and ginger and just cover with water. Add 1 tbs salt and sugar. Bring to a boil and skim the top of the broth. Add the chicken and cook chicken for 40 minutes on low heat. Remove chicken and cool. Toss out the chicken bones and season the stock with both salt and sugar to taste.

Shred chicken and chop the drumsticks and wings with a sharp knife.

Add these condiments to the bowl:

Egg noodles – I used Pappardelle’s Orange Szechuan Linguine from the Chicago French Market and it was the perfect pairing for the ingredients. Cook to al dente.

1 bundle of chives or, as I used, cilantro

White and Red Onion (grilled)

Sesame Oil

½ lb of bean sprouts

Fish Sauce (Fish Sauce should look like tea. Anything darker than that is poor quality)

Pickled Jalapeno Peppers

As a finale, ladle on the hot broth.

I'm No Cupcake Expert...But I Do Love To Eat Them

I am not a cupcake expert. The reference to cupcake in my blog title refers to my dad’s nickname for me when I was young. I do, however, love to eat them.
My friend Shelly recently asked me down to taste a few – namely 14 - that she had to narrow down to just 3 for a Christmas party she was giving.

One of my favorite Cupcakes was from Wildflour Bakery In Lake Bluff

I’ll admit that when I tried them (a little bite from each – Yikes, how many cupcakes would that actually be?) they were all pretty good but in no time at all, we picked 3 and as it turns out, one from each of the 3 bakeries that she bought them from.

As a note, I think that most cupcake bakeries are high-quality but exceptional? I’ve found only one out of a half a dozen that was worth the $4.00 price tag.

Here are two recipes that were as close to the bakery version as we could find.

Bon Appetit!

Eggnog Cupcake with Bourbon Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting


24 regular cupcakes / 350 degree oven

1/2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup butter, room temp

3 eggs, room temp

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup eggnog

1/4 cup bourbon/dark rum (all of one or a mix)

2 1/4 cups flour

1 teaspoon each baking powder and soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1. Cream together sugar and butter until light and fluffy.

2. Beat in eggs until blended.

3. Mix together eggnog, bourbon, and vanilla.

4. In a bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg.

5. Alternate adding dry and wet ingredients into egg mixture mixing until combined.

6. Scoop into lined cupcake tins and bake at 350 for 20-22 minutes.

Eggnog Pastry Cream

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 cup eggnog

1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon butter, softened

1/2 teaspoon dark rum

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Place flour in a heavy sauce pan, gradually whisk in eggnog until blended and smooth.

2. Add egg yolks, one at a time, whisking until just combined after each addition.

3. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, removing from the heat occasionally to avoid lumps, until thickened. If necessary strain through a metal sieve to remove lumps.

4. Remove from heat, stir in butter, rum and vanilla.

5. Transfer pastry cream to a bowl. Cover surface with plastic wrap, chill.

Bourbon Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons whipping cream

1 tablespoons butter

pinch salt

2 tablespoons bourbon

1-1/2 packages Philadelphia cream cheese, room temp

1/2 cup butter, room temp

4 cups confectioner's sugar
1. Heat brown sugar, cream, butter, salt over medium high heat whisking until sugar is dissolved. Cook for another minute.

2. Pour in bourbon and stir to combine. Take off heat and let cool.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter until soft.

4. Add the confectioner's sugar and beat to combine.

5. Add three tablespoons of the bourbon caramel (you might have some left over) and beat to combine.


1. Fill cooled cupcakes with pastry cream.

2. Top with frosting.

3. Decorate as you wish or drizzle some leftover bourbon caramel sauce.

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Frosting

Makes 10 cupcakes

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup canned pumpkin purée (8 ounces), not pie filling

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush or spray the top of 10 muffin tins with vegetable oil and line them with 10 paper liners.

2. Into a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. In a larger bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin purée, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vegetable oil. Add the flour mixture and stir until combined.

3. Divide the batter among the prepared tins (I use a level 2 1/4-inch ice cream scoop) and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool completely.

4. Spread the cupcakes with the Maple Frosting

Note: Also good sprinkled with chopped toffee heath bars.

Maple Frosting

6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 teaspoon Boyajian Natural Maple Flavor

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese and butter on low speed until smooth. Stir in the maple flavoring and vanilla extract. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the confectioners' sugar and mix until smooth.

Merry, Merry Christmas

Love the fact that my neighbors know me so well! Franciscan X 2!

Bon Appetit!

Baked Potato Slices

Depending on how brown you like them, these terrific potato slices are your next best addiction to potato chips.
Bon Appetit!

1 1/2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled, very thinly sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for pan

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and place rack in the middle of the oven. In a medium bowl, combine the potatoes, olive oil, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper, and toss until well coated.

Generously brush a large rimmed baking sheet with olive oil, and overlap the potato slices just slightly. Bake until potatoes are golden brown and crisp in places, about 30 minutes.

Asian Pork Chop

This recipe is one of my favorites because in under 10 minutes, you can have a really fantastic meal. 10 minutes? Really!
Just put this in an extremely hot oven and 10 minutes later you come out looking like the next master chef.

I LOVE quick and easy…

Bon Appetit!

1 tbsp Black Bean Sauce with garlic

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 pork chop (bone in)

Salt and pepper

Heat oven to 450 degrees. In a bowl, combine bean sauce, sesame oil and fennel seeds.

Season both sides of the chop with salt and pepper.

Spread bean mixture on both sides.

Bake 10 minutes, turning once, until cooked.

Caramelized Chicken Ga Kho

This caramelized chicken recipe is so good I just licked the bowl clean and am looking for more.

Unlike most caramelized recipes where you cook and caramelize the meat in a pan, I cooked the chicken on my indoor grill for that amazing outdoor flavor and caramelized the sauce in a pan then poured it over the chicken. The results were surprising. It was especially good as a leftover when the flavors had a chance come together overnight. Don't use anything but chicken thighs because they add to the flavor of this dish as well.

You can use this easy caramel sauce for pork and beef as well. I used it on grilled beef and added a little orange juice and it was really wonderful.

Bon Appetit!

Caramelized Chicken


2 lbs bone-in chicken thighs

2 tbs fish sauce

1 tbs brown sugar
Caramel Sauce:

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup fish sauce

1/3 cup rice vinegar

1/3 cup water

4 cloves of garlic - minced

2 tbs grated ginger

2 shallots - minced

2 jalapeño and 1 Thai chili

1 green onions, sliced


sesame seeds

Marinade the chicken in fish sauce and brown sugar for a half hour.

Make the sauce and set aside.

Cook the chicken on the grill. In the pan, turn the sauce on high until it caramelizes. Pour over chicken and add condiments and serve in a bowl with rice.

Celeriac Shoestrings with Fennel and Chili Salt

I love Donna Hay’s magazine - if nothing else for the food photography which is exceptional.

When I was looking through an issue of her magazine the other day, I came across this recipe which is made from celery root, also known as Celeriac. It is a common ingredient in Europe and this particular recipe made me a huge fan because I am obsessed with French fries.

The texture is something between an apple and jicama and in this case, often like jicama, it is dusted with chili salt before serving.

Bon Appetit!
                                                                  Photo: Donna Hay Magazine
Vegetable oil, for deep-frying

Celeriac, peeled and thinly sliced

Heat the oil in a large, deep saucepan over medium heat until hot.

Deep-fry the celeriac, in batches, for 2–3 minutes or until golden and crispy.

Drain on non-stick baking paper, sprinkle with the Fennel and Chili Salt and serve immediately.

Fennel and Chili Salt:

• 2 tablespoons sea salt flakes

• 2 dried red chilies

• 1 tablespoon fennel seeds

Place salt, chilies and fennel seeds in a frying pan over high heat. Cook for 1–2 minutes. Place in food processor and pulse until combined.

Peppermint Bark

This makes a great gift for neighbors or friends if you don’t eat it all before you get a chance to gift them.

Bon Appetit!

• 10 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
• 12 oz white chocolate chips
• 6 candy cane(s)

Place the semi-sweet chocolate morsels (not quite 1 bag) in a bowl and place in the microwave on high power for 30 seconds. Stir with a rubber spatula. Put it back in the microwave for another 30 seconds and stir again. Continue until melted.

Pour the melted chocolate onto a baking sheet covered in parchment paper or wax paper and spread it into a large rectangle. Place in fridge.

Break candy canes into very small pieces.

Melt entire bag of white chocolate chips using the same method as in step 1. As soon as it is melted, spread white chocolate on top of semi-sweet chocolate.

Sprinkle candy cane pieces on top of white chocolate and press. Let cool in fridge for 45 minutes or until hard.

Break into pieces.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

McCormick’s 2011 Flavor Pairings In The Cupcakes and Crablegs Kitchen

Kevan Vetter, McCormick's executive chef, is part of a team that meets to develop McCormick's annual "flavor forecast" report. What I love the most about the report is the flavor pairings.

I will admit that some of them are a little out of the ordinary but you will be amazed when you start experimenting…which is what I did this past weekend.

Bon Appetit!

Here are the pairings for 2011:

1. Fennel and Peri-Peri Sauce

I couldn’t find Peri-Peri at any of my 4 favorite stores - so hard to believe since you can find anything in Chicago - but Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Fresh Market and Jewel didn’t carry it so I gave up and made my own.

Peri-Peri Sauce

4 peri-peri peppers, cleaned and finely chopped

juice of one Lemon

3 cloves of garlic, minced

one tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley, (optional)

one tablespoon Paprika

4 tablespoons of Olive Oil

1 teaspoon Salt

Remove stems and seeds from peppers. Note: Take the necessary precautions when handling hot peppers.

Grind and mix all ingredients to a fine paste by hand or use a blender or food processor. If you want to go hotter add ground cayenne pepper of pepper flakes to taste. Cook in a hot frying-pan for a few minutes.

Store in a sterilized jar in the refrigerator. The flavor will develop over the course of just a week.

Here is McCormick’s recipe for a Bloody Mary’s and it came just in time since we all decided to indulge this morning after a very late night Christmas party.

It was a good change of pace from the usual Bloody Mary and I marinated the cherry tomatoes overnight so they were super infused with the vodka flavor.

Peri-Peri Fennel Bloody Mary with Vodka-Infused Tomatoes
Makes 4

2 teaspoons McCormick® Gourmet Collection Fennel Seed

1/2 cup vodka

4 small cherry tomatoes

4 small pimiento-stuffed Spanish olives

3 cups tomato juice

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon peri-peri sauce

Heat small skillet on medium heat. Add fennel seed; cook and stir about 1 minute or until fragrant. Immediately pour out of hot pan to avoid over-toasting. Finely crush seeds using a small food processor, a clean coffee grinder, a rolling pin or a mortar and pestle. Pour fennel into small bowl with vodka.

Make a small “x” in the top and bottom of each cherry tomato. Add to the bowl along with the olives. Let stand 4 hours or overnight to marinate. Drain, reserving vodka mixture. Thread 1 tomato and olive onto each of 4 cocktail skewers.

Stir tomato juice, reserved vodka mixture, lemon juice and peri-peri sauce in large pitcher until well blended. Pour into ice-filled glasses.

Garnish with tomato and olive skewers or anything fun that you happen to find in your refrigerator. That’s a challenge these days since all these Christmas parties are taking a toll on my refrigerator space. I don’t think I have room for another ingredient or leftover…unless it is chocolate.

To Rim the glass: Serve in beverages glasses rimmed with fennel sea salt. Place 1 tablespoon McCormick® Gourmet Collection Fennel Seed in large resealable plastic bag. Close tightly. Pound with a rolling pin, mallet or heavy skillet until ground. Mix with 3 tablespoons McCormick® Gourmet Collection Sicilian Sea Salt on small plate. Wet outside rims of beverage glasses with lemon wedge. Dip glasses into fennel sea salt to coat.

2. Pickling Spice and Rice Vinegar

Here is McCormick’s take on Asian pickles which is great on your favorite Bahn Mi or just right out of the jar!

Asian Refrigerator Pickles

1 seedless or English cucumber, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)

1 medium red bell pepper, cut into thin strips (2 cups)

1 cup thinly sliced radishes or daikon (Asian white radish)

1/2 cup julienne-cut carrots

2 tablespoons McCormick® Mixed Pickling Spice

2 cups sugar

2 cups rice vinegar

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1. Mix vegetables in large glass bowl. Set aside.

2. Place pickling spice in the center of piece of cheesecloth or coffee filter. Tie tightly with string. Place in medium saucepan with sugar, vinegar and salt. Bring to boil on medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt. Reduce heat to low; simmer 5 minutes. Pour hot liquid and pickling spice bundle over vegetables. Cover.

3. Refrigerate vegetables. Stir once a day for 1 to 2 days to blend flavors. Store in tightly covered container in refrigerator up to 2 months.

Makes 5 ½ cups.

And here is another pickle recipe for the most appetizing side dish at Momofuku’s in New York…the pickles.

Momofuku’s Pickles

For brine:

1 cup very hot tap water

1/2 cup rice-wine vinegar

6 tbsp sugar

2 1/4 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp pickling spices

For Veggies:

2 lbs whole baby carrots, scrubbed, peeled, and trimmed

3 bulbs fennel

Pack carrots (for larger ones, cut them length-wise, so they are snack size) and fennel (core and cut into 1/8-inch strips) into mason jars or 1-qt plastic containers, cover with brine, close lid, and refrigerate. They'll be ready in four days. Most will keep for up to a month.

3. Roasted Curry Powder and Wild Mushrooms

I could never quite get into curry until I had “real” curry down on Devon Street in Chicago. Here is a recipe that I like and it is especially good when mopped up with oversized pieces of Naan.

Mushroom Curry

1/4 pound mushrooms, sliced

1/4 teaspoon whole cumin

½ tablespoon olive oil

½ inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped

½ onion, chopped

1 jalapenos, stems removed and thinly sliced

1 cloves garlic, minced

½ tomato, chopped

1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder

1/4 teaspoon chili powder

½ teaspoons coriander powder

8 cashews

Rotisserie chicken – add as little or as much as you like

1/4 teaspoon Garam masala

Salt and pepper

Pour oil into a skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook until tender. Set the mushrooms aside.

Pour the other half of the oil into another skillet over medium heat. Add the cumin. Cook 30 seconds. Add the ginger, onion, jalapenos, and garlic. Cook for about 7-8 minutes.

Add the tomato, turmeric, chili, and coriander. Cook for about 5 minutes. If the mixture is too dry add a 1/4 cup wine or water.

Pour half of the mixture into a blender with the cashews. Process and pour back into skillet. Add the mushrooms, and bring a simmer. Cook for a minute. Add chicken. Stir in the garam masala and stir. Serve over white rice.

4. Caramelized Honey and Adzuki Red Beans

I could not find caramelized honey and once I caramelized my own, I was hooked. It’s so much better than regular honey. It takes a little getting use to but once you have it down, you’ll be putting it on everything.

Combine a little water, lemon juice and honey. The water prevents the honey from scorching, while lemon juice prevents the caramelized honey from hardening or crystallizing.

Cook the honey over low heat, stirring the honey constantly with a wooden spatula. Once the honey begins to simmer stop stirring and cook the honey for just 1 or 2 minutes more.

As soon as the honey reaches a golden brown color and starts to emit a nutty aroma, remove the saucepan off the heat. Swirl the pan to distribute the color and flavor evenly and transfer the contents into another container.

This is McCormick’s recipe for Pork and Beans. I used a little pork belly in mine and, as always, am wild about yet another bean recipe.

It looks like a lot of work but well worth the effort when you take your first bite. I like the addition of fish sauce in this recipe. In fact, I try fish sauce in a lot of dishes because it has such great flavor and goes well in some many sauces and toppings.

Sweet and Smoky "Pork and Beans"

1/2 cup Honey

2 tablespoons Thai Kitchen® Premium Fish Sauce

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

2 1/2 teaspoons McCormick® Gourmet Collection Smoked Paprika, divided

1 1/2 teaspoons McCormick® Gourmet Collection Garlic Powder, divided

1/2 teaspoon McCormick® Gourmet Collection Crushed Red Pepper

1 pork tenderloin (about 1 1/4 pounds)

2 slices bacon, diced

1 can (14 1/2 ounces) petite diced tomatoes, undrained

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon McCormick® Gourmet Collection Ground Ginger

1/2 teaspoon McCormick® Gourmet Collection Sicilian Sea Salt

1/4 teaspoon McCormick® Gourmet Collection Coarse Grind Black Pepper

1 can (15 ounces) adzuki beans, drained and rinsed or fresh beans (that’s what I use) cooked as follows:

Soak 1/2 cup of beans overnight in ample water. Drain and simmer in 2 cups of water for 40 minutes to an hour. Alternatively, pressure cook the soaked beans in 2 cups of water for 5-9 minutes at high pressure. If you don't have time to soak the beans, pressure cook for 15-20 minutes.

2 green onions, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix honey, fish sauce, lime juice, 2 teaspoons of the smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon of the garlic powder and red pepper in small bowl until well blended. Brush pork with glaze.

Roast 20 to 30 minutes or until desired doneness, brushing with glaze halfway through cooking time. Let pork stand 5 minutes before slicing.

Meanwhile, cook bacon in large skillet on medium heat until crisp. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, remaining 1/2 teaspoon each smoked paprika and garlic powder, ginger, sea salt and pepper; cook 8 to 10 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Gently stir in beans. Cook 2 to 3 minutes or until heated through. Slice pork on an angle into thin slices and serve over bean mixture. Garnish with green onions.

5. Ancho Chile Pepper and Hibiscus

Here is McCormick’s cupcake recipe which was downright sinful.

I did my own things with the frostings here using a little fudge under the Hibiscus buttercream and topped it with a few swirls of lighter chocolate and lots of extra hibiscus and a few chocolate shavings. I hardly ever follow a recipe when topping a cake.

I really loved the combination of the fudge cake with the hibiscus in the buttercream. Little did I know that the Hibiscus that grew in my back yard in Hawaii was so enchanting to eat!

Chocolate Fudge Ancho Cupcakes with Hibiscus Buttercream Frosting

1 1/4 cups flour, divided

1 tablespoon McCormick® Gourmet Collection Ancho Chile Pepper

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

4 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate

6 tablespoons butter

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon McCormick® Pure Vanilla Extract

2 eggs

3/4 cup water

Hibiscus Buttercream Frosting (recipe follows)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix 1/2 cup of the flour, ancho chile pepper and baking soda in small bowl. Set aside. Microwave chocolate and butter in large microwavable bowl on HIGH 2 minutes or until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Stir in sugar and vanilla. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time. Gradually beat in ancho-flour mixture on low speed until just blended. Add remaining 3/4 cup flour alternately with water, beating until well blended after each addition.

2. Spoon batter into 12 paper-lined muffin cups, filling each cup 2/3 full.

3. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted into cupcake comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire rack 10 minutes. Remove from pans; cool completely. Frost cupcakes with Hibiscus Buttercream Frosting.

Hibiscus Buttercream Frosting:

Beat 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened, and 1 tablespoon finely ground dried hibiscus flowers in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in 2 cups confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons water; beat until light and fluffy.

Easy Chocolate Fudge Ancho Cupcakes:

Prepare 1 package (18 1/4 ounces) chocolate fudge cake mix as directed on package, adding 1 tablespoon McCormick® Gourmet Collection Ancho Chile Pepper with the cake mix. Bake as directed for cupcakes. Double ingredients for Hibiscus Buttercream Frosting and prepare as directed. Frost cupcakes with frosting. Makes 2 dozen.

Makes 12 (1 cupcake) servings.

Note: To grind whole dried hibiscus flowers for the frosting, place the flowers in a clean coffee grinder. Grind on fine setting until finely ground.

Hibiscus syrup is great to mix with a variety of liquors for celebratory winter drinks. Remembering the flavor pairings, I also use a little Ancho Chile Pepper to give it a bit of a kick.

I bought Agave syrup at Trader Joe’s – one of my favorite stores for sourcing hard to find ingredients. Trader Joe’s was the only store to have Hibiscus – they had it mixed in with cashews. That combination was amazing.

Hibiscus Syrup

• 1/3 cup agave syrup

• 4 tbs dried hibiscus leaves

• 1 pc lime

• ¼ tsp. Ancho Chile Pepper

Reduce agave syrup to 2/3 until thick. Add the hibiscus and let it steep for 5 minutes then pass through a fine mesh strainer and chill. Adjust the sweet and sour balance with the lime juice and add the Ancho Chile Pepper.
6.Thyme and Stone Fruits

For years, I have grilled peaches with thyme and honey so this old recipe is now everyone’s new favorite. It’s not just a summer recipe…I do it in the middle of winter because I love grilled fruit any time of the year. In winter, you will likely have to opt for the flash frozen fruit but some brands are almost as good as the fresh!

I made these recently as a side at my neighbor’s winter BBQ and everyone loved the taste with the BBQ pork. You can also use nectarines, which I like as well.

2 peaches

1/3 cup honey

¼ tsp fresh thyme

Pull thyme leaves off the sprig and mix with the honey.Cut peaches in half. Grill the peaches until semi-firm (about 5 minutes).Baste the peaches with the honey-thyme mixture liberally. Grill the peaches for another 5 minutes or until soft

7.Mustard Seed and Vermouth

I love this pairing because it is so simple…just a little vermouth in some grainy mustard and you have a sauce that will go on just about anything.

One of my all time favorite foods is sea scallops and this recipe from the Asian Food Channel is an interesting combination and a nice variation from the standard scallops with butter or cocktail sauce.

Seared Scallops with Mustard Vermouth Sauce

20 fresh large scallops, small side muscle removed

3-4 tablespoons grape seed oil (or canola)

Sprinkled sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 oz vodka

1/4 cup vermouth

1/4 cup 35% whipping cream

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 green onions, thinly sliced

Thoroughly dry the scallops by laying and folding them within a double layer of paper towel.

Pre-heat a heavy-duty skillet over high heat then add oil. When it is almost smoking, season the scallops with salt and pepper and sear them briefly, 1-2 minutes per side, so they are golden on the outside, and still tender inside. Remove them from the pan and pour in vodka to de-glaze, allowing it to flame. When flame subsides, add the vermouth, mustard and cream and reduce to a sauce like consistency. Whisk in the green onions serve immediately.

8.Cilantro and Nut Butters

This was the most challenging combination of all for me but I love stir fry so a mixture of these ingredients proved to be a delicious and attention-grabbing meal. I love it over rice but you can also toss it over salad or pasta.

Chicken Stir Fry With Cashew Butter and Cilantro

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 pound chicken (cut into bite sized pieces)

1 tablespoon cashew butter

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 lime (juice and zest)

2 cloves garlic (grated)

2 teaspoons ginger (grated)

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 teaspoons chili sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1/4 cup cilantro (chopped)

1/4 cup cashews

2 green onions (chopped)

Heat the oil in a pan.

Add the chicken and sauté until cooked, about 4-7 minutes.

Mix the cashew butter, soy sauce, lime juice, lime zest, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, chili sauce and sesame oil in a bowl.

Toss the chicken and cilantro in the cashew butter sauce to coat.

Serve over rice and garnish with cashews and green onions.

I found yet another recipe that made the combination of nut butters and cilantro a winning balance of flavors.

Cabbage and Cilantro Slaw with Peanut Sauce

6 cups thinly sliced green cabbage

1 cup finely shredded carrots

2/3 cup dry roasted peanuts

2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

2 sliced green onions, both white and green parts

Dressing Ingredients:

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

3 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce

3 Tbsp rice vinegar

2 Tbsp honey

2 Tbsp water

1 1/2 tsp Hoisin sauce

Place the shredded green cabbage in a bowl. Add in the peanuts, shredded carrots, chopped fresh cilantro and Italian parsley, and green onions.

Prepare the dressing by whisking the peanut butter, soy sauce, rice vinegar, honey, water and Hoisin sauce together until smooth.

Pour the dressing over the vegetables and peanuts. Toss to coat all the vegetables well.

9.Herbes de Provence and Popcorn

French popcorn never tasted so good…especially with all the butter. I actually liked air popped until I experienced this recipe. You can put as much or as little butter on as you like. Me – honestly, it’s a weekend cheat worth cheating for.

8 cups popped popcorn.

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

1 garlic clove, finely minced

2 tablespoon herbs de Provence (a blend of dried marjoram, thyme, summer savory, basil, rosemary, sage, and fennel)

In a large pot, add 1/4 Cup vegetable oil.

Heat on medium high, add a few kernels to the oil.

When the first kernels pop add the rest of the popcorn kernels.

Melt butter in small saucepan; add garlic and cook 1 minute. Stir in herbs de Provence.

Place popcorn in large bowl. Toss flavored butter mixture.

10. Green Peppercorn and Goat's Milk

I like a variety of salad dressings and this one, from McCormick’s was no exception. I really don’t love goat cheese but loved it in this recipe.

Creamy Goat Cheese Salad Dressing

1 log (6 ounces) goat cheese (chévre), crumbled

1/2 cup goat’s milk

1/2 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon McCormick® Gourmet Collection Green Peppercorns, finely crushed

1/2 teaspoon McCormick® Gourmet Collection Sicilian Sea Salt

1/4 teaspoon McCormick® Gourmet Collection Onion Powder

Reserve 1/4 cup of the crumbled goat cheese for sprinkling. Mix remaining goat cheese, goat’s milk, sour cream, green peppercorns, sea salt and onion powder in medium bowl with wire whisk until well blended and smooth. Cover. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Sprinkle dressing with reserved crumbled goat cheese. Serve over salad greens.

An afterthought:

After trying all of the new pairings I can say that McCormick really got it right this year. I’ll review their predictions at the end of 2011 and we’ll see how they did. In the mean time, if you come up with some great recipes when trying these pairings, let me know.

My favorite: Ancho Chile Pepper and Hibiscus…or was it Pickling Spices and Wine Vinegar?

Great Christmas Gifts For Foodies

If you are looking for that special something to give your favorite foodie this holiday season, here are some unique ideas:

I looked everywhere for a single decanter like the one that my wine was served in at the bar at the Ritz Hotel. After looking for months, I decided that CB2’s decanter was close enough and what could I lose – it was $5.00.

I was stunned when it came as the quality was beautiful – yes, did I say this $5 decanter is beautiful? It honestly looks like I paid $60 for it.

Since then, I’ve ordered a number of things. What you get is the unusual of very high quality at an incredibly low price. This is my find of the year!


Taste of Chicago

Want to give someone a taste of Sweet Home Chicago? Lous Malnati’s Pizza, Portillo’a Beef, Carson’s Ribs, Garrett’s Popcorn and more. Any time your loved one has hometown cooking on their mind, it’s on the menu and they ship it out that day and deliver it fresh.

Taste of Chicago

Sur La Table

Sur La Table

Sur La Table is one of my favorite kitchen stores. They provide a wide variety of stocking stuffers and other gadgets for your favorite foodie. How about the gift of a cooking class? Can you think of anything better to do than learn a new skill when it’s snowing outside?

They also have a professional line of bakeware that is inexpensive and very high quality.

Sur La Table Professional Bakeware

Fusion Brands

Fusion Brands

The $15 foodpod will save you time when boiling, blanching or steaming by containing, removing and draining foods like eggs, veggies, shellfish. It’s simple to use and a real time saver when cooking.

Cuisinart Weight Digital Kitchen Scale

Kitchen Scale

I learned to use a scale at the bakery where the chefs never measure their ingredients, they weigh them.

Hammacher Schlemmer

Indoor Pressure Smoker

Pressure Smoker

Imagine that this indoor pressure smoker cooks barbecue brisket in only one hour--five times faster than traditional methods. You’ll be creating great dishes in no time flat!

The device cooks food up to 70% faster while causing wood chips to release flavor-enhancing smoke. I want one!

Michelin Guide Chicago 2011

Michelin Guide

After two years of research by Michelin's team of anonymous inspectors, the company introduced the MICHELIN Guide Chicago 2011, showcasing the finest restaurants and hotels in Chicago.

You can put that one in my stocking because I have yet to find it at an airport bookstore.

Maintain Your Weight During The Holiday

Here are some things to think about when grabbing for that next holiday drink or appetizer. If I can maintain my weight during the holidays, I’m ahead of the game.

Opt For The Bubbly

Choose a glass of Champagne at just under 100 calories. You’ll drink less because it’s served in a smaller glass…that is unless you have several small glasses.

Be Realistic

The average person does not give up their favorite foods and stick to healthy eating during the holidays. Focus on having fun and keeping expectations realistic.

Weight Management And Not Weight Loss

Make healthy eating choices your goal when it is time to lose weight – say January 2nd!Have The Party At Your House

You have a lot more control over what kinds of food will be served. And at the end of the night, you don’t have to worry about finding your designated driver.

Portion Control

Don’t pass up on your favorite food, just take a smaller portion. Put Itty-Bitty in your holiday vocabulary.

Have a Subway

At lunch, I go vegetarian with a 6” Veggie - all the vegetables and honey mustard - at least once a week - just like Jared!

Use A Smaller Plate

I’ve always been about eating on small plates.

Your mind will consider it a full plate regardless of the size so use a small plate rather than a large one.

Have A Glass Of Water

Follow every drink with a glass of water. I now make this a rule during the holiday. Water is filling, has 0 calories, is inexpensive and helps flush out the excesses.

It's Okay To Say "No."

The host will not be offended if you say no --- all the more for him!

Order Clear

If you can’t see through it it’s full of calories so don’ drink it.

Follow The Three Bite Rule

Did you know that after the third bite, your taste buds don't register the flavors as sharply? True… so unless it's amazing give it up after the third bite.

Petite Appetit!

Gruyere and Parmesan Beignets

Grab a double order of Gruyere at the cheese market because you can’t stop eating these once you start.
Chef April Bloomfield created this delicious beignet recipe - now one of my favorite holiday appetizers.

Bon Appetit!

Gruyere-and-Parmesan Beignets

Photo: Martha Stewart

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cups finely grated Gruyere cheese

1 1/2 cups finely grated Parmesan cheese

4 large eggs

Coarse salt

Vegetable oil, for frying

In a large pot over medium-high heat, bring 1 cup water and butter just to a boil. Whisk in flour and stir with a spatula to blend completely. Transfer mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.

Add cheeses and mix on high speed until well combined. With mixer on low, add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition; season with salt. Transfer batter to refrigerator and let chill for 30 minutes.

Drop tablespoon-size balls of batter about 1-inch apart onto 12-by-2-inch pieces of parchment paper; refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 3 days. Beignets may also be frozen for up to 1 month.

Fill a large heavy-bottomed pot 4 inches high with oil. Heat oil until it reaches 350 degrees on a deep-fry thermometer. Working in batches, carefully place entire piece of parchment into hot oil. Using tongs, carefully remove parchment from oil and discard. Fry beignets until golden and crisp, 3 to 5 minutes.

Serve immediately.

Artichoke Parmesan Crostini

If you need something quick and easy to take to a holiday party, make Crostini.

Crostini is a remarkable Italian appetizer to serve during the holiday season. Crostini are made by slicing bread and toasting or grilling (I use my indoor grill) it so that it becomes crispy. Crostini’s are then drizzled with olive oil and dressed with an assortment of toppings. This makes it a great recipe to experiment with.

This one mixes artichoke hearts and parmesan and I added a bit of prosciutto to give it a great salty taste.

Makes 8

8 slices (1/4 inch thick) baguette

2 tablespoons olive oil

Coarse salt and ground pepper

1 jar (6 1/2 ounces) marinated artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed, and patted dry

1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish (optional)

4 slices prosciutto

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make crostini: Brush baguette slices on both sides with a total of 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet, and bake, turning over once, until golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool.

Meanwhile, make topping: Finely chop artichokes, and combine in a bowl with Parmesan, parsley, and remaining tablespoon oil.

Dividing evenly, spoon topping onto crostini and garnish with prosciutto and additional Parmesan.

Shaws Crab House

After many years of eating just appetizers when I am out, I’ve come to the conclusion that I could live off the appetizers at Shaws Crab House in Chicago. The Clams Casino and Tuna Sashimi – you just can’t get any better. In all of the years I have eaten there, I don’t ever remember having an OK meal - it’s always been a “to die for” experience!
Here is a variation of the Clams Casino using oysters.

Bon Appetit!

Oysters Casino
Serves 6 to 8 as an appetizer, 2 to 4 as a main course
Photo by Martha Stewart

4 slices bacon, chopped

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1/2 cup minced shallots

1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper

1/4 cup finely chopped celery

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Large pinch of cayenne pepper

Rock salt

2 dozen small (3 to 4 inches long) Pacific oysters on the half shell

Minced fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small skillet, cook bacon until almost crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate; set aside.

Place the butter, shallots, bell pepper, celery, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and cayenne pepper in a food processor; mix until well combined, about 20 seconds.

Spread 1/4 inch rock salt on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes.

Place oysters firmly in the hot rock salt. Place 1 tablespoon of the butter mixture on each oyster; top each with bacon. Bake oysters until bubbly, about 12 minutes. Do not overcook. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.

Italian Semifreddo

In Italian, semifreddo means half cold. It has the texture of frozen mousse because it is usually made by blending two equal parts of ice cream and whipped cream. In Italian cuisine, Semifreddo is often made with gelato as the main ingredient.

This semifreddo is light and takes on both peppermint liqueur and candy to make it a holiday must.

Bon Appetit!

Peppermint Semifreddo
Photo by Martha Stewart

Serves 6

4 ounces (about 1/2 cup) peppermint candy, plus more for serving

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

3 large eggs, separated

9 tablespoons sugar

6 tablespoons peppermint liqueur

Chocolate Sauce

Using a rolling pin, finely crush 5 tablespoons candy between the two sheets of parchment paper. Place cream in a medium bowl; whisk in crushed candy, and whip until stiff peaks form. Chill until ready to use. Roughly crush remaining 3 tablespoons candy; set aside.

Prepare an ice bath. In a large metal bowl set over a pan of simmering water, whisk egg yolks and 3 tablespoons sugar until pale. Add liqueur; whisk vigorously until mixture is thick, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to ice bath; whisk until cool.

In the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer set over a pan of simmering water, whisk egg whites and remaining 6 tablespoons sugar until sugar dissolves and mixture is warm to the touch, about 2 minutes. Attach bowl to mixer, and beat until stiff and glossy peaks form.

Fold the egg-white mixture into the egg-yolk mixture one-third at a time. Fold in the whipped-cream mixture. Spoon mixture into six serving dishes, layering it with reserved crushed candy. Freeze until firm, at least 1 1/2 hours.

Serve with chocolate sauce and peppermint candy on the side.

Jamie's America

Jamie Oliver is a mastermind who happens to know how to cook. His take on the American classics makes you want to sit down at his table and never get up.

This is one of the few cookbooks that I actually want to buy. Besides great food photography, there are so many wonderful regional recipes. When you open the book, you feel like you have taken the road trip through America with him.

Oliver explores the ingredients, food culture, and ethnicity of America. He traveled to Louisiana and saw that the kitchens there generate some of the best gumbos ever. From soul food in Georgia to the Mexican influence in Arizona, this cookbook is filled with regional favorites to which Jamie has given that Oliver twist.

Take one look at his surf and turf gumbo and you’ll have it on your bookshelf before you can get your stove cranked up and your soup pot out. Here is the link to the recipe. Surf and Turf Gumbo

Sticky English Pudding

I was never a fan of English cooking or dates until I tried this recipe. Sticky toffee pudding is a British dessert. It’s a moist sponge cake with chopped dates or prunes and is served covered in a beautiful toffee sauce. The best part - It’s even better the next day – that is if you have any leftovers.
I put some leftover peaches with it.
Bon Appetit!
Serves 10

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan

8 ounces pitted dates, finely chopped

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Toffee Sauce

16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks)

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup packed light-brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions for the pudding:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour an 8-inch round cake pan; set aside.

In a small bowl, combine dates and 1/2 cup boiling water; set aside to soften, at least 10 minutes. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt to combine; set aside.

With an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy; add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add date mixture, flour mixture, and vanilla; mix just until moistened.

Spread batter in prepared pan or individual ramkins. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 55 to 65 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare toffee sauce.

Directions to prepare the sauce:

In a medium saucepan, combine butter, heavy cream, light-brown sugar, and salt. Heat over low, stirring, until sugar has dissolved, about 2 minutes. Simmer mixture over medium heat until reduced to about 2 1/2 cups, 8 to 12 minutes. If desired, reheat sauce over low before serving.

Remove cake from oven; cool in pan 5 minutes. To ensure it will come out easily later, carefully invert hot cake then return it, right side up, to pan. Using a toothpick, poke holes all over cake. Pour about 1 cup warm sauce over cake; let absorb at least 20 minutes.

Bread Pudding

What a great way to use up leftover bread from a Saturday night dinner. This is one of the easiest and best desserts ever. I’ve made a hundred recipes and this one from Paula Deen is pretty hard to beat. It’s a basic recipe and you can change up just about anything in it (except the bread and eggs) to use up your leftovers.

Bon Appetit!


• 2 cups granulated sugar

• 5 large beaten eggs

• 2 cups milk

• 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

• 3 cups cubed Italian bread, allow to stale overnight in a bowl

• 1 cup packed light brown sugar

• 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened

• 1 cup chopped pecans

For the sauce:

• 1 cup granulated sugar

• 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted

• 1 egg, beaten

• 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

• 1/4 cup brandy

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13 by 9 by 2-inch pan.

Mix together granulated sugar, eggs, and milk in a bowl; add vanilla. Pour over cubed bread and let sit for 10 minutes.

In another bowl, mix and crumble together brown sugar, butter, and pecans.

Pour bread mixture into prepared pan. Sprinkle brown sugar mixture over the top and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until set. Remove from oven.

For the sauce:

Mix together the granulated sugar, butter, egg, and vanilla in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir together until the sugar is melted. Add the brandy, stirring well. Pour over bread pudding. Serve warm or cold.

Cold Weather Drinks

Baby it’s cold outside. That was an understatement today and here are some cold weather drinks to take off the frost when a glass of your favorite liqueur simply will not do.

Bon Appetit!

Steaming Bull

2 oz. Tequila

2 oz. Beef bouillon

4 oz. Tomato juice

splash lime juice

Dash of Worcestershire sauce

Heat ingredients except tequila in a saucepan. Do not boil. Pour into mug and add tequila.

Hot Sultry Zoe

1 oz. Tequila

1/2 oz. Galliano

5 oz. Hot chocolate

2 oz. Cream

Pour tequila, Galliano, and hot chocolate into an Irish Coffee glass or mug. Stir gently. Add cream by pouring it over the back of a spoon so that it floats on top.

Hot Wine Lemonade

1 1/2 oz. Red wine

1 oz. Lemon juice

1 tbs. Fine sugar

4 oz. Boiling water

In an Irish Coffee glass or mug, dissolve sugar in a splash of water. Add the wine and lemon juice. Stir. Fill with water. Stir well. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Hot Toddy

2 oz. Bourbon

4 oz. Boiling water

1 tbs. Fine sugar

splash lemon juice

dash ground cloves

dash cinnamon

In a coffee mug, dissolve the sugar and spices in 1 oz. of the boiling water. Stir. Add the lemon juice, bourbon, and the rest of the water. Stir well.

Chimney Fire

1 1/2 oz. Amaretto

4 oz. hot cider


Pour ingredients into an Irish Coffee glass or mug. Stir. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Mulled Wine

6 oz. Red wine

splash brandy

1 tbs. Fine sugar

splash lemon juice

2 whole cloves

1 dash cinnamon

Combine ingredients in a saucepan and heat to simmer. Do not boil. Stir well. Pour into a coffee mug.


6 oz. red wine

1 tsp. Honey or to taste

one cinnamon stick

one lemon slice

one orange slice

three cloves

dash nutmeg

Combine ingredients in a saucepan and heat to a simmer. Do not boil Pour into mug.

Hot Buttered Rum

2 oz. Rum

1 1/2 oz. Brown sugar

1 tsp. Cinnamon

1 tbs. Butter

4 oz. milk

dash salt


Heat milk in a saucepan, being careful not to boil. Combine sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a mug. Add rum and butter. Pour in hot milk. Sprinkle with nutmeg.

Celebrating Time Out Chicago

Anything that you want to know to navigate the ins and outs of Chicago can be found inside any issue of Time Out Chicago. I am a subscriber and love getting the publication every week because they have tremendous coverage of the food scene in Chicago. For instance, this week features the 100 Best Things  We Ate and Drank This Year. Amazing because now my list is almost endless for new places to go. It’s the best source out there on what is happening in Chicago and every year, I buy it as a gift to myself.

They recently compiled a list of shops that crank out great Christmas cookies. This saved me a lot of time because I wanted to put together a variety of cookies for my neighbor, who loves sweets but really hates to bake.

And me, well I just didn’t have the time.

Here is their website:

And here is a copy of their list of bakery’s that make great holiday cookies:

GREECE Melomakarona from Artopolis Bakery, Cafe and Agora (306 S Halsted St, 312-559-9000). $8.45 a pound

“With these cookies, we keep the [holiday] tradition—we might have updated the original Greek recipe over the past ten years, but this cinnamon, honey and ginger cookie is one delectable item, then and now.” —Maria Melidis, store manager

GERMANY Springerle cookies from Fritz Pastry (1408 W Diversey Pkwy, 773-857-2989). 75 cents each

“Our bakery is named for my grandfather on my mother’s side, so there’s lots of German influence in everything we do. My mom made these cookies for our grandfather and the kids every Christmas; they’ve got that unique anise flavor, but people who like anise love them. It’s traditional to use a cutter with etchings for the design; ours have little animals on them to add a bit of charm.” —Nate Meads, owner

EASTERN EUROPE Chocolate and cinnamon rugelach from Tel-Aviv Kosher Bakery (2944 W Devon Ave, 773-764-8877). $5.50 a pound

“We’ve been using the same recipe for this rugelach ever since my father, David Ackerman, was freed from the concentration camps and came to the states after World War II. He opened up this bakery, and although he passed on, my mother, Diana, carries on the business and we still use every one of the recipes that he brought from Europe.” —Esther Sabo, daughter of owner Diane Ackerman

SWEDEN Swedish gingerbread from Floriole Cafe & Bakery (1220 W Webster Ave, 773-883-1313). $2.50 each

“My Swedish grandmother made these every year for the holidays. After she passed away, no one had the recipe. I hadn’t had them since I was 10 or 11 and really missed them, so a few years ago I started tinkering around to try to replicate them. Now we make them in all the traditional shapes at the bakery: snowflakes, Christmas trees, presents. My aunt says they’re pretty close—they just need more allspice. But I don’t like allspice.” —Sandra Holl, owner

USA Retro “snobalz” from Angel Food Bakery (1636 W Montrose Ave, 773-728-1512). 80 cents each

“My mom always made the crescent-shaped cookies dusted with powdered sugar for the holidays, and these are reminiscent of my childhood. They’re such a rich, dense cookie–the kind that’s perfect for holidays and special occasions. —Stephanie Samuels, owner

MEXICO Trenza de fruta fresca from Bombon (1530 W 18th St, 312-733-7788 and other locations). $12 a pound

“In the small town of Hildago where my baker Gonzalo Illas and his family of bread bakers are from, most people are too poor to spend money on fancy ornaments for their Christmas trees. Instead, they bake beautiful cookies, which they decorate and hang on the branches like these wreaths made with candied fruit and cinnamon. When Gonzalo came to Chicago to work with me, he started to bake these and other traditional cookies each Christmas, as he always had in his town. And you know how it goes—half get eaten right away, and then only half make it on the tree.” —Laura Cid-Perea, pastry chef

CZECH REPUBLIC Kolaczki from Delightful Pastries (5927 W Lawrence Ave, 773-545-7215). $15 per pound

“Even though my mother (and bakery co-owner Stasia Hawryszczuk) and I are Polish, we had never heard of these cookies before opening our bakery. We did a little research and found out that they’re actually from the Czech Republic, but you know, people think they’re Polish so we have to make them.” —Dobra Bielinski, co-owner

FRANCE Macaroons from Delightful Pastries. $15 per pound

“I made these for my French exam in pastry school way before they became so popular. When I opened the bakery, I was looking for a cookie that people would travel long distances to buy, and we decided this was the one. Now, they’re one of our biggest hits. We make them with marzipan, hazelnut praline, chocolate, caramel and pistachio fillings.” —Bielinski

ITALY Giant Christmas cannoli from D’Amato’s Wholesale Bakery (1124 W Grand Ave, 312-733-5456). $45, mini cannolis sold separately for $1.25 each

“How do we do it? I guess it’s kind of a family secret. Look closely—there are over 40 mini cannolis inside!” —Roseanna D’Amato, daughter of owner Victor D’Amato