Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy New Year!

We'll catch up this next week...promise.

Lots to share from New York and home.

Bon Appetit and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Happy Holidays 2012

I am on vacation 12/15 - 12/25 but noteworthy NYC posts to follow.
When you’re in the greatest food city in the world, you may find it difficult to narrow down an itinerary. I will resort to heads or tails to set me off in the right direction. Can you think of a better system?

What are we planning to do?
Who knows better than Zagat’s New York City Food Lover’s Guide and Michelin to give you at least a thousand choices only to conclude that you are coming back next year for at least two weeks instead of one. NYC has far too much to offer- especially in the way of food - to cut it short.
And, as a food lover, there is only one thing to say…
New Year’s resolutions to follow. NYC bring it on!
Bon Appetit and Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sunday at Maxwell Street

More this week on our cold but always delightful breakfast at Mawell Street Market.

Fresh cooked to order.

Bon Appetit!

Mercadito: The Perfect Saturday Brunch

Brunch on Saturday proved to be the perfect flavors that reminded me that I don’t have to be in Mexico to get great Mexican food. A year later, this is still one of my favorite restaurants in Chicago.

Huevos Ahogados: poached eggs, crispy corn bread, chipotle-hollandaise sauce.

The best dessert I’ve had in a long time and my new challenge to create?

Torrejas de Bolillo. A creme anglaise soaked mexican bread,ice cream and a light covering of cajeta sauce.

At 108 W Kinzie, it’s the perfect spot to stop at after a morning of mega-shopping.

Bon Appetit!

Bibimbap...A Signature Korean Dish

Bibimbap has a history. Scholars support that Bibimbap started from the ancestral ritual of mixing food offerings in a big bowl before partaking in it. Does this make eating Bibimbop a spiritual experience? I like to think so as I savor every bite of this signature Korean dish. It’s one of my favorite dishes.

It is not only beautiful to look at but it can easily be adjusted for different tastes and seasoning levels.
Honestly, this recipe is pretty tough to screw up. On a scale of 1 – 10, I would say that this is an easy 4.
Anyone, including my 12 year old neighbor can make it. I put her to the test this past weekend.
Whatever the experience is for you, it is sure to challenge you to perfect this recipe and it can be perfected.
I have made it with scallions and peanuts with great results. In fact, whatever I put in this recipe worked.
Bibimbop is a also a great way to use leftovers. Other than the red pepper paste and rice, everything else can be switched up.

I’ve tried it with both pork and chicken but this mixture was just made for beef.
Bon Appetit!
Prep Method:

Add 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil and cooked sticky rice and cook the rice for several minutes until the rice sizzles. Place a serving of rice in a big bowl.
Here is where you can show your food styling skills. Arrange a small amount of each prepared vegetable including bean sprouts and beef over the rice. Drizzle with a little sesame oil. Top the dish with an egg fried sunny-side up with toasted, sesame seed. Serve with red pepper paste sauce…any one you happen to love!
Preparing The Vegetables and Meat:
Julienne the carrots into match sticks. Sauté in a lightly oiled skillet for 1 - 2 minutes over medium high heat, sprinkling salt and pepper to taste.
Generously sprinkle salt over sliced cucumbers and set aside for 10 - 15 minutes. Squeeze out excess liquid. Toss with 1 tablespoon of chopped scallion, 1 clove garlic minced, 1 teaspoon sesame oil and 1/2 teaspoon of sesame seeds.
Blanch the spinach in salted boiling water only until wilted, 30 - 40 seconds. Drain quickly and shock in cold water. Squeeze out water. Cut into 3-inch lengths. Toss with 1 tablespoon of chopped scallion, 1 clove garlic minced, 1 teaspoon of sesame oil and salt and pepper to taste.
Cut into tiny pieces. Mix in 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 2 teaspoons of brown sugar, 2 teaspoons of sesame oil, 1 teaspoon of rice wine (optional), 1 tablespoon of chopped scallion, 2 cloves garlic minced, and a pinch of pepper. Marinate for 20 minutes.
Sauté in a skillet for 2 - 3 minutes over high heat.

Three Ingredient Ice Cream

Three ingredients and like magic, I had a bowl of the creamiest, lemon ice cream.

Was this one of the best ice creams ever? You have a YES from the self-anointed ice cream expert.

Amazing to me: I made this ice cream last weekend and the consistency is still creamy a week later. No ice crystals formed…not a one.

You know this ice cream is good when you eat it right out of the container and can’t even get it into the bowl. Best thing yet – you don’t need an ice cream maker to create it.

You can test a new flavor simply by changing up the lemon curd.

Bon Appetit!

Ice Cream with Lemon Curd

2/3 cup whipping cream
1/3 can (4 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup lemon curd

Whip the cream.

Stir in the sweetened condensed milk and lemon curd.

Pour the mixture into the container, cover and freeze.

Pickled Green Beans

My brother-in-law Dan makes really good pickled green beans… but it is a process.

This is a quick refrigerator version and makes a delicious addition to spicy Bloody Mary’s during the holiday season.

Bon Appetit!

Refrigerator Pickled Green Beans

12 oz haricot verts (in eason) or green beans.

2 1/2 C white vinegar

3 C water

1/4 C salt

3 T sugar

3-4 cloves garlic

2 t dill seeds

2 t caraway seeds

4-6 bat leaves

Divide the green beans among the two jars. You don’t need to cook them–just trim them and wash them.

I added two bay leaves to each jar, 1-2 cloves of garlic, and divided the seeds between the jars.

Bring the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar to a boil. Once the sugar and salt has dissolved, pour the liquid over the beans–easier to divide if you use equally sized jars. Top off with boiling water until you reach the top of the jar.

Cap the jars and refrigerate.

Wait a week but if you break into a jar early...enjoy! They will still taste great!

The Ultimate Indulgence: French Fries

To burn off a French extravagance, you have to dance for about an hour.

I can so do that for an hour or two or three.

Make mine a double!

Bon Appetit!

Homemade Greek Yogurt

My friend Mary, who is 100% Greek, gave me a tub of Greek yogurt from the Monastery in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin.

Honestly, this is the BEST yogurt I’ve ever tasted.

OK – I’ll admit that I have never been a huge fan of Greek Yogurt but this tasted different.

I mixed mine with a little lemon curd and dressed it up with some homemade granola.

Hard to decide which one is my favorite.

I am now inspired to try a batch of homemade yogurt because there is such an enormous difference in taste.

Bon Appetit!

Lemon Curd, Yogurt and Granola

2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt

2 teaspoons lemon curd

1 teaspoon granola

Layer the yogurt and lemon curd, scatter with the granola.
Lemon Yogurt with Pomegranate

Lemon Yogurt

Pomegranate Seeds


Spoon in yogurt and top with Pomegranate and granola.

Another Round of Wedge...and Other December Shorts

Another variation of the Wedge and the homemade dressing literally made this salad.

Bon Appetit and where’s my steak to go with it?

For the Bleu Cheese Dressing:
1/3 cups mayonnaise
3 tablespoons cup vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1/3 cup dairy sour cream
1/4 cup milk
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 cup smoked blue cheese, crumbled

In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, vinegar, honey, sour cream, milk and garlic until smooth. For a thicker dressing, omit the milk. Stir in the blue cheese crumbles. Serve immediately, or store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

For the Salad:
1 head Iceberg lettuce, well cleaned
Diced tomatoes
Chopped scallions
Candied Pecan Pieces
Bacon, crumbled
Cubed Avocado

Make sure your lettuce is very cold. Pull it from the fridge just before serving and work quickly to get it on the table still cold.

Remove the root end from the bottom of the head of lettuce. Slice the lettuce half, then into 4-6 wedges (depending on your preferred size).

Top with your favorite toppings and drizzle with homemade Smoky Bleu Cheese Dressing.

Boston Cream Pie Cupcake

You can make your cupcakes unique just by using a few signature extras.

This recipe originated in 1855 and was popular back in the 60’s.

It is still one of my all time favorites even though I never had a taste for it growing up.

Chocolate Covered Wafers

Here is a link to the highest ranked page of this blog with over 100,000 hits.

We love these cookies and remember you can do them with chocolate wafers too.

Chocolate Covered Oreos

A Petite Carafe

Petite carafes are great for serving individual portions of wine and look beautiful on the dinner table.

I’ve looked for the perfect one for well over a year. Ended up that my local restaurant had one all along and sold it to me last week. Just goes to prove that the neighborhood you live in offers the simplest of solutions. Just ask your local chef.

Now…back to the hunt for my next kitchen got-to-have!

Looking A Lot Like Christmas

Frozen Pizza

Wisma worked for over a year to perfect this pizza recipe. It’s a lot like a flatbread and in this case with a little tomato sauce and mozzarella. All ingredients are locally sourced.

Love it? You be the judge. I'm a huge fan of the white pizza/

Emile Henry

Speaking of pizza, I bought a new pizza stone. Did I need one? No. This was definitely a splurge…but worth it I might add.

I was convinced that I needed one after I had two pizza’s cooked on the stone at my neighbors and then went home and cooked one on my old pizza stone. The difference in taste was astonishing.

French brand Emile Henry is made of Burgundy clay which evenly and slowly distributes cooking heat to the center of the stone. The pizza is cooked evenly and not even the edges were overdone.

Best $49 I’ve spent lately …less my 10% cooking class discount and $25 gift certificate, I was out of pocket $19.

Makes a great gift for anyone that is a pizza lover like me.

Creative Photos

Photo Sculptures are a fun way to display your best-loved photos - especially in the kitchen.

I look at this one every day of my son when he was young. It never fails to make me laugh and feel like he is ready to jump out and give me a mega-hug when my recipes turn out less than perfect the first time around.

He’s been doing a lot of hugging lately.

When I write about products, it’s on my own dime. I either like them or I don’t and no one can pay me to think otherwise.

Centuries of trend-setting designs has put Pillivuyt porcelains in my kitchen.

Try it just once and you’ll be convinced that with great results in baking, this is the only dish to use in the oven.

Goose Island Vanilla Cream

          Getting the best out of the vanilla bean? I LOVED this soda….and I NEVER drink soda!

Pumpkin Cheesecake

I’ve tried at least a half a dozen recipes and not one was even close to Gerhard's version.
I know...lot's of whipped cream and light on the pumpkin.

Bon Appetit!

Saturday, December 1, 2012


Maybe it’s the Mexican in my soul but tucked away in a tiny corner of my kitchen, I have a little altar to Our Lady of Guadalupe. I’m convinced she puts the magic in my cooking. In fact, since I put this little altar in my kitchen, I am fearless. I will try anything.

I have a friend who talks to Annapurna, Hindu Goddess of Food and Cooking almost daily. Crazy? Seems his cooking has improved immensely since he started up these conversations with her over two years ago.

Whoever you get your cooking inspiration from, celebrate them. Make a permanent place for them in your kitchen.

I know these oils have magical power every time I use them… or maybe it’s the thought that inspires me to cook much-loved dishes that even I can’t explain.

Bon Appetit!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Feast…Eating It Straight Out Of The Oven

I was inspired to make some new recipes this year for Thanksgiving – with the exception of my stuffing which always turns out fantastic with a mix of sausage,fresh herbs and white wine. In fact it is so good I am always digging in with a fork the minute it comes out of the oven.

I bought a fresh turkey (, brined it overnight then washed it off the next morning. I rubbed Williams Sonoma Turkey Paste on the outside and baked it. I also took Chef Tom Colicchi of Craft restaurants in NYC and Las Vegas advice and basted the bird every 15 minutes.

MAGIC – that’s what it was. This was the best turkey I’ve ever cooked and the meat was so moist.

My favorite leftover? I love a mix of white and dark meat slathered with plenty of Mayo. In that sense, I am very traditional.

I threw a salad together with ingredients I had in the refrigerator. I never measure them. I eyeball for the number of guests that I am having. Try it. It will come easy with practice.

I topped this tasty salad with Litehouse’s Pear Gorgonzola dressing which only has 1.25 grams of fat per tablespoon and is DELICIOUS!

Cauliflower, Pear and Pomegranate Salad

Head of Lettuce, chopped
Cherry tomatoes, halved
Fresh Cauliflower, chopped
1 Pear, thinly diced
Sprinkle with Pomegranate seeds
Sprinkle with Candied Pecans
2 slices Bacon, fried and crumbled

Apple and Cranberry Galette

I made this in our pie class last Sunday. This free form pie with cranberries and apple slices is a stunning finale for a holiday meal. You can also use pears and pears do not require precooking.

I really loved this recipe because it does not have much sugar so you really get the true taste of the fruit.

This recipe makes 2 galettes.

For the pastry:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
6 Tbs. white cornmeal
2 tsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
12 Tbs. (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
6 Tbs. sour cream
1/2 cup ice-cold water

For the filling:

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
3 Tbs. honey
3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
8 large Granny Smith apples, about 4 lb. total, peeled, cored and sliced
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
2 Tbs. unsalted butter, cut into thin slices
Sugar for dusting (optional)
Crème fraîche for serving (optional)

To make the pastry, in a food processor, combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar and salt. Scatter the chunks of butter over the top and pulse for a few seconds until the butter pieces are the size of small peas. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream and ice water. Drizzle the mixture over the dough and pulse until the dough is smooth and clings together. Pat the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, to make the filling, in a large fry pan over medium heat, combine the sugar, water, honey, lemon juice and cinnamon and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the apple slices and simmer until the apples begin to soften, 5 to 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the apple slices to a bowl.

Add the cranberries to the liquid in the fry pan and simmer until they start to pop, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cranberries to the bowl with the apples. Increase the heat to medium-high and boil the liquid until reduced slightly, then spoon over the fruit.

Position 2 racks in the middle of an oven and preheat to 400°F.

Divide the dough in half. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out each half into a round about 12 inches in diameter and transfer to separate baking sheets. Divide the fruit filling equally between the pastry rounds and spread it in an even layer, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border uncovered. Fold the border over the fruit, pleating the edges to form a rim. Lay the butter slices over the exposed fruit. Dust the pastry rims with sugar.

Bake the galettes, rotating them 180 degrees 
at the midway point, until the pastry is golden brown and the apples are tender, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer the pans to wire racks and let the galettes cool completely on the pans. Serve with crème fraîche. 

Makes two 9-inch galettes; serves 10 to 12.

Speaking of pie recipes, look at the one our instructor did last weekend and look at my sister's pie the left. 

Does that tell you who I should be taking a pie lesson from?

Bon Appetit!

Nutmeg and Black Pepper Popovers

I went in for another round of popovers. I’m a sucker for them since my mother, who didn’t really like to cook, made them with such ease.

I really liked this recipe because it’ cooks at the same temperature throughout. For some reason cooking on high heat then turning the oven down without ever looking sounds like risky business.

Next time, I may would this recipe with a little cheese in it.

Don’t give in to temptation and open the oven door. A big surprise in store if you don’t peek.

Also, I use the low end of the cooking time because of the dark popover pan. About 30 minutes was perfect.

Bon Appetit!

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
3 large eggs
2 ½ cup milk
3 tablespoons + unsalted melted butter

Whisk 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, 1 tablespoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg in a medium bowl.

Whisk 3 large eggs and 2 1/2 cups whole milk in a large bowl until well blended.

Gently whisk in flour mixture, followed by 3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter (do not over mix).

Preheat oven to 425°.

Melt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter; grease 12 standard muffin cups with 1/2 teaspoons melted butter each.

Pour batter into prepared muffin tins, filling cups three-quarters full and dividing equally.

Bake popovers until puffed, golden brown, and crispy around edges, 30-35 minutes.

Using a thin knife or an offset spatula, remove popovers from pan. Serve immediately.

Note: Brush the popover pan with melted butter. Those nonstick sprays are great but the popovers are more likely to collapse if you use them. Either the sides don't get firm or they stick to the pan.

Puttin' on the Ritz

I seldom dress up any more so when I got an invitation to the Ritz for their new holiday breakfast I jumped at the chance to dress up. It felt good after religiously living in my Nike workout gear for months on end.

The last time I was at the Ritz we found this great bar with high, white leather back chairs. It was the perfect place to catch up but you were still in the thick of the action to do the best thing to do at the Ritz…people watch. It’s almost better than the airport.

The holiday breakfast was in that same bar and the atmosphere was terrific because it was all dressed up for Christmas too.

This was not an inexpensive brunch but the superb quality of the food made it well worth the $25 price tag and if you make friends with the omelet chef, you’ll get a mega dose of your favorite recipe and wonder how you can possibly eat it all in one sitting.

And for an after-breakfast indulgence: To the Spa for a Bamboo and black sesame body indulgence…a creamy scrub with black sesame seeds (hey, don’t you eat those?), powdered bamboo and organic oils. Revealed a totally new me.

Come to think of it, I could totally get use to this puttin’ on the Ritz lifestyle!

Bon Appetit!