Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Tropical Green Smoothie

Now that a majority, if not all, my favorite summer farmer's markets are no longer available, I wanted to find another way to get fresh, organic and high quality ingredients. That's when I learned about Door to Door Organics here in the Chicago area. They are an online grocer specializing in organic produce and natural groceries including dairy, prepared foods, baked goods, meats – pretty much everything you need and could want! Door to Door Organics began delivering in Chicago in 2010 and they currently deliver for free within 50 miles around the city. You can see if they deliver to your area using their zip code locator.

One of the things I appreciate about Door to Door Organics is that they partner with local farmers and artisans such as Red Hen Bread and Deer Creek Organics to bring fresh food to Chicago families every day. They truly are the ultimate virtual farmers market, making it such a great service that works with the local community too. In fact, they recently opened a new 25,000 square foot warehouse in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago and added more than 1,000 new grocery items, including frozen foods, pantry staples, ethnic foods, vegan options, gluten-free items, Non-GMO snacks, local products and more local and organic produce. 

Ordering from Door to Door Organics was actually a lot of fun. First off, they offer a few different sizes of produce. I started my Door to Door Organics service with an 'bitty fruit box'. It's the perfect starter box for the single cook, roommates, or a couple. I chose the bitty fruit box just to test it out. Unlike some produce delivery services, Door to Door Organics also tells you what you can expect in your box. And because everyone likes choices, you also have the ability to customize your order and swap out items for things you prefer.

Although I started with the bitty fruit box order size, I can always change my order size to others available - small, medium, and large. It's nice to know I can change my order without any questions asked and to try a few different sizes to see what works best for me and my family. And regardless of what size I order, I can choose between a mix of 100% certified-organic veggies, fruit, or a combination of both!

Aside from the produce, Door to Door Organics also have a full online grocery store. They have an ever-growing selection of organic, natural, and local foods that compliment the fresh produce. I loved perusing throughout their site to discover local producers and finding my family pantry staples at the Shop. A variety of farm-fresh milk, free-range eggs, gourmet cheese, humanely raised meats, sustainably fished seafood, and artisan breads were all available. And just like your local grocery store, they also have weekly sales with great deals.

I love the attention to detail Door to Door Organics has. Even their packaging and delivery is well thought out. Groceries come in 100% recyclable, SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative) certified box. All their packaging is either reusable or recyclable - so I can leave them out for the next delivery day to reuse/recycle on future orders. I also didn't have to worry about my produce and groceries from being roughly handled. All my fruit came perfectly delivered, just as I would have picked them myself at the store or farmer's market. They also use insulated sleeves and reusable ice packs for my purchased meats. I love that Door to Door Organics work hard to ensure everything gets to my doorstep in great condition and even do extensive testing to make certain that if the box is left on my doorstep for an extended period, everything will still be fresh and safe when I bring it inside. As for delivery, you can choose to have an order delivered weekly or every other week too. If you plan on going on vacation, you can even place your order on hold and restart whenever you'd like. It's an extremely flexible service and everything can be done right online.

So with my first Door to Door Organics, I purchased a few organic items including kale, spinach, bananas, Asian pears and other items. I've been conscious of the coming holidays lately and how I've been incorporating more fruits and vegetables in my diet. A favorite way to do that is making smoothies. Using the amazing produce I got from Door to Door Organics, I made this Tropical Green Smoothie. Smoothies in general are easy to make using fruits and vegetables you have on hand. And with fresh produce delivered every week, it's been great for me and my family to enjoy smoothies so we can get our delicious dose of healthy.

To help share my love of Door to Door Organics with my readers, they have generously provided a $10 off discount for first time customers. Click HERE to take advantage and use on your first Door to Door Organics order! 

Tropical Green Smoothie
original Joelen recipe

1/4 cup spinach, packed
1/4 cup kale leaves, packed
1/3 small banana, peeled
1 small Asian pear, peeled and diced
1/3 cup frozen pineapple chunks
1/3 cup frozen mango chunks
1/2 cup coconut water

Place all of the ingredients into your blender in the order listed.

Cover blender and blend on high until smooth or desired consistency.

Don't forget to check out Door to Door Organics on social media!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Meaty Fire Roasted Garlic Chili

Nothing says a lazy fall day like enjoying a good, hearty bowl of chili. We love chili most during the fall months. I usually make chili on weekends because often times, recipes I've used call for slow cooking for hours. But during the week, we had a major craving for chili and slow cooking for a few hours wasn't an option. That's what I got some much needed help from the store to make this Meaty Fire Roasted Garlic Chili. A Hearty chili full of ground beef, steak, bacon and the usual beans and tomatoes, it was the flavorful sauce that tied it all together that took only a few minutes but tasted like it was slow cooked all day...

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Fall Potluck!

I love potlucks. For those that know me, I used to host potlucks weekly among friends and members of my old culinary group I managed. In an effort to bring back the potluck trend, I hosted a Fall Potluck Luncheon a few weeks ago. The event was a success and although it was a small gathering, it was a delicious one with great conversations. Here's some pics from the luncheon...

My brother, John, recently started his food blog - The Pantry Panda. He also manages a Facebook Group, Bears in the Kitchen. He helped me put the luncheon together and spread the word among his friends and group members. In fact, a few came out from Milwaukee just to attend...

We had an amazing spread of both sweet and savory. It was so impressive to see how a group of 15 could throw a cohesive and complimentary spread of comforting fall eats. We had a table showcasing our savory dishes, sweet dishes and a beverage cart stocked with an assortment of martinis, soft drinks, and wine. John made his popular bone-in prime rib roast. It was a hefty 9+ pounds and every once of it was delicious!

Everyone started with the savory offerings. I prepared a couple of salads (Ceasar Salad and a Chopped Asian Salad). Dora, the food blogger behind the Budget Cooking section of, prepared a butternut squash & kale casserole. Jeff, of Make It Like a Man, prepared these amazing Cloverleaf Rolls. John, of The Pantry Panda, made his Garlic Prime Rib Roast. Maxwell, who came in from Milwaukee, prepared a hearty chili. To round out the meal, I also prepared a mac & cheese bar. I made two kinds of mac & cheese  - a classic white cheddar version and a traditional cheddar version with GF garlic & chive pasta. There were also a few toppings for folks to stir into their mac & cheese including pico de gallo, green onions, crumbled bacon, caramelized mushrooms, pork carnitas and bell peppers & onions.

On our sweets table, we had a great spread too! Diana, of Chicago Foodie Girl, brought in  Chocolate Chip Banana Bread. Star, also from Chicago Foodie Girl, brought in Pumpkin Bars. Jeff's friend brought in Apple Cider Bread. John also made a Dutch Apple Pie, and Melissa, of Turning Veganese, made Vegan Fudge.

All in all, it was a delicious day with foodies and I'm looking forward to the next potluck I'll be hosting, which will be in December... a Holiday Cookie Swap! This was such a fun event with new friends and food - what more could anyone want?! A special thanks to those who attended and also to my friends at Smarty Had a Party. They have some great products perfect for parties, gatherings and celebrations of all sorts. I used their green plates, square plastic platesflatware, napkins, and even a table runner to add some flair. Everyone complimented me on the servingware and were surprised they were all disposable because they looked and felt so sturdy. I'll definitely be planning my next party with Smarty Had a Party in mind. Until then, Happy Eating, friends!...
I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Roasted Garlic Lemon Cornish Hen

A good roast chicken dinner is a classic meal enjoyed by many. We love our share of chicken at our house but I wanted to try something a bit different, yet familiar with a typical chicken dinner. Instead of chicken, I served up these Roasted Garlic Lemon Cornish Hens. These miniature chickens were stuffed with lemon, rubbed with garlic and baked until golden before serving alongside some roasted Parmesan and bacon smashed potatoes. Comfort food, kicked up a notch...

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Rodney Strong Vineyard's Silver Anniversary Dinner

When I entertain, I love putting all my efforts into a well thought out menu along with paired drinks. The decor and ambiance tend to come second because the way I see it, it's all about making sure my guests leave well fed and with a memorable experience. I recently hosted a special dinner in honor of Rodney Strong Vineyards. The Klein family have owned the Rodney Strong Vineyards brand for 25 years so what better way to celebrate their Silver Anniversary than with a wonderful spread food and wine?! In fact, I was not alone in celebrating... others all around the country were celebrating simultaneously on September 20, 2014, including top chefs preparing elaborate meals, fellow food and wine bloggers and all the fans of Rodney Strong Vineyards.

For the special dinner, I had family and friends attend and served a five course meal, each with a carefully paired Rodney Strong wine. Tasting notes below are provided by Rodney Strong...

First Course: Lump Crab Stuffed Mushrooms

Wine Tasting Notes: Light, crisp, and highly aromatic, the warmer climate Alexander Valley fruit gives this wine ripe peach, tangerine, and pineapple character, while the ocean cooled Russian River Valley fruit offers citrus, lemon grass, and slightly herbaceous qualities. Together, the two valleys make a classic Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc that is fresh, lively, and will drink beautifully over the next 1 to 2 years.

To kick off my dinner, I wanted to start with lighter bodied wines and progress to more robust wines, just as my menu does with the varied flavors. For my first course, I prepared a simple lump crab stuffed mushroom. We loved how delicious the wine paired with the delicate crab. The wine really accentuated the crab nicely and I love the way the citrus notes made for a bright and light start to the meal. This wine is especially good with seafood and the crab stuffed mushrooms was a perfect pairing!

Second Course: Seared Jumbo Scallops with Sesame Ginger Vinaigrette

Wine Tasting Notes: Barrel fermentation in new and seasoned French oak added toasty vanilla and spice complexities. During the eleven months of barrel aging, we regularly stirred the “lees” in barrel, and later in tank, which imparts an elegant fullness and creamy texture on the palate. In the glass, the wine is both creamy and crisp, with golden delicious yellow apple, baked pie spices and a hint of minerality on the long finish. Enjoy over the next one to three years with lobster, herb crusted halibut with a minted sweet pea purée or grilled veal chops with sautéed mushrooms.

The second course also featured seafood and this time, scallops. To add some flair, I served the jumbo scallops with a sesame ginger vinaigrette just to add a touch of acidity. This really worked nicely with the chardonnay. The wine picked up on the buttery scallops with a hint of sweetness that did well under the sesame ginger vinaigrette.

Third Course: Herb & Garlic Prime Rib Roast

Wine Tasting Notes: Soft and silky, with intriguing rose petal and crushed pomegranate aromas, this medium bodied wine was aged for 10 months in small French oak barrels, which added a hint of toasty vanilla and spice complexity. Ideal for current enjoyment, this Pinot Noir will age nicely over the next two to four years.

and also paired with 
2010 Rodney Strong Brothers Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley
Wine Tasting Notes: Chocolate and black fruit profile, with exceptional richness.

For the main course, I wanted to give my guests a choice on wines to pair them with. These two wines - the Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and Brothers Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon - played up against the flavorful rub I used on the prime rib roast. These reds work well with hearty meat and they certainly didn't disappoint. It was a split tie between which wine folks favored with the entree course!

Fourth Course: Cheese Course of Blue cheese, Camembert, toasted cashews

Wine Tasting Notes: The 2011 Symmetry greets you with an opulent bouquet of blackberries, cassis, and sweet spices. It unfolds on the palate with layers of black fruits, dark chocolate and spice. This mouth-filling wine is rich and silky in texture with a long, lingering finish and the structure for several years in the cellar. Intended to be enjoyable on release, the 2011 Symmetry is destined for evolution in the bottle.

After the heavy appetizers and entree, I wanted to change the pace and lighten up the meal with a cheese course. Blue cheese is a favorite of ours and I knew they would work deliciously with the Red Meritage wine. With the deep fruity notes of the wine, there was no need to offer fresh fruits. And the creamy blue cheese was a perfect pairing once again.

Fifth Course: Salted Caramel Chocolate Cheesecake

Wine Tasting Notes: In the “Port” wines of Portugal, there is a legally defined set of allowable grape varieties that reflects the long tradition of the region. Here in Sonoma County we believe that the best grapes for making Port styled wines are those that have great fruit flavor, a fine depth of character, and excellent color. For this release we have chosen primarily Zinfandel and Touriga (the most important Port grape in Portugal), with lesser amounts of Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Malbec. The combination of these varietals, from five of our best vineyards, results in a wine with balanced sweetness, powerful flavors, and an unctuous texture that glides on the palate, and lingers. Because of its sweet and special nature, Port is generally considered a dessert wine. It can easily be enjoyed by itself, or with a selection of cheeses, nuts, or even dark chocolate.

Lastly, I knew a good chocolate dessert would serve as the perfect ending to our five course dinner. With port to accompany dessert, I made the salted caramel chocolate cheese. A combination of sweet and salty was exactly the flavor this port wine complimented. Everyone enjoyed the finish of the wine and dinner... so it wasa delicious success!

Thank you to the folks of Rodney Strong Vineyards for allowing me to celebrate the special day with dinner and wine. I wish you another 25 years of wonderful wine making with many more to follow!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Four & More Flatbreads for Football Fun!

The weekends have been full of fanfare with football season at our house. Sometimes we watch while eating pizza, wings or a typical tailgate spread. But to offer a spin on things, we've been enjoying a whole lot of flatbread lately. Here are four flatbread recipes we highly recommend... and these are particularly good when made with Krusteaz's new Flatbread Mixes:

To kick up the flatbreads up a notch, check out the video by Hostess with the Mostess on “How to Make Grilled BBQ Chicken Flatbreads”! Some other flatbreads include the Grilled BBQ Chicken Flatbread Pizza, Little Guilt Grilled Flatbread, Grilled Flatbread Pepperoni Pizza and Grilled Whole Wheat Flatbread, all made with Krusteaz Flatbread mixes and your grill! 

To help you enjoy the football season just a little more, here's a chance for you to win Delicious Flatbread from Krusteaz and a Weber® Grill! From now through November 6, 2014, register for a chance to win one of three flat-out awesome prizes, including a brand spanking new Weber® Grill. All you have to do is visit here and “like” for a chance to win. 

• The Grand Prize Winner will receive a Weber® Spirit® SP-320 and one year’s supply of Krusteaz’s New Flatbread Mix Line.

• The Grillmaster Prize Winner will receive a Weber® Original™ Stainless Steel 3-pc Tool Set.

• The Flat-Out Awesome Prize Winner will receive Krusteaz’s New Flatbread Mix Line.

To learn more and enter to win, visit the Krusteaz Facebook Page here... And don’t forget to follow Krusteaz on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and Instagram!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Fall Inspired Gluten-Free Prime Rib Dinner

My parents have been retired for quite some time and they've been living overseas a few months out of the year. This past weekend they recently came back to visit and will be flying back in November. It's been somewhat of a tradition with my family to welcome them home with a prepared feast of prime rib. This is partially due to how we usually include this amazing roast in our holiday celebrations for as long as I can remember... but probably more importantly because my parents just don't have access to the same quality of beef overseas. So when my parents arrived, there was no question what we would have for dinner the night of their arrival - a Gluten Free Prime Rib Dinner.
Although we have our favorite way to prepare prime rib, I sometimes change it up with a few tweaks, sneak in a few ingredient additions, or just give the traditional dinner a whole different spin. This time, I decided to do a fall inspired Prime Rib Dinner by incorporating some fall inspired ingredients, classic favorites and getting some delicious help with some spice and seasoning mixes from McCormick.

With the increase of folks taking on a gluten free lifestyle, it's been great to see some popular brands come out with gluten free friendly products. Spice and seasoning mixes often have hidden gluten in them, but now folks can take comfort knowing there are gluten free spice and seasoning mixes available by McCormick. They currently offer 4 gluten free mixes - GF Chili Seasoning Mix, GF Taco Seasoning Mix, GF Turkey Gravy Mix, GF Brown Gravy Mix. For my Fall Inspired Prime Rib Dinner, I used 2 of their GF mixes.

My menu includes:
Chicken & Apple Chili Meatballs
Delicious Deviled Eggs
Herb Roasted Prime Rib w/ Herb Stuffing
Mixed Greens Salad
Praline Apple Swirl Cheesecake

For my Chicken & Apple Chili Meatballs, I combined ground chicken, finely diced apple and chili seasoning to create some flavorful meatballs, which I served with a simple tomato sauce and garnish of cheddar cheese. {Recipe follows...}

The Delicious Deviled Eggs came from a recipe taken from the AllRecipes website. It's a straightforward recipe using eggs, mayonnaise, ground mustard, parsley flakes, seasoned salt and paprika.

My Herb Roasted Prime Rib with Herb with stuffing made use of an unexpected ingredient - gravy seasoning! It was used in the roast rub to give it some extra flavor.{Recipe follows...}

To add some vegetables to our menu, I had to include our family's favorite mixed greens salad, served with a homemade French dressing.

And to finish the meal on a sweet note, I made a GF Praline Apple Swirl Cheesecake filled with diced apples and Southern pralines swirled throughout before topping with a caramel glaze and more chopped southern pralines for garnish.

Chicken & Apple Chili Meatballs
original Joelen recipe

2 granny smith apples (or 1/2 cup chunky applesauce)
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 lbs ground chicken
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 (1oz) packet McCormick Gluten-Free Chili Seasoning Mix

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Peel and core the apples and place on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle salt to taste.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes to roast. Remove apples from the oven and place in a food processor. Process until finely chopped; set aside. *If you don't have time or want to roast apples, you're welcome to use jarred chunky applesauce.

In a large bowl, combine the ground chicken, 1/2 cup processed roasted apples (or chunky applesauce), shredded cheddar cheese and chili seasoning mix. Carefully combine all the ingredients until fully incorporated. Roll mixture into small meatballs.

To bake:
- Preheat your oven to 350.
- Place the chicken meatballs on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes until cooked through.

To fry:
- Heat a skillet with cooking spray.
- Place the chicken meatballs in small batches and brown on all sides until cooked through

To serve:
Toss lightly in tomato sauce and garnish with cheddar cheese.

Garlic & Herb Prime Rib Roast

10 lb prime rib roast (bone in) - at room temperature
2 tablespoons coriander
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced
1 tablespoon fennel seed
1 tablespoon ground mustard
2 tablespoons fresh minced garlic
1 tablespoon sea salt
2 tablespoons fresh ground pepper
1 (0.88oz) packet McCormick Gluten-Free Turkey Gravy or McCormick Gluten-Free Brown Gravy Seasoning Mix
1/4 cup olive oil

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

While the oven is preheating, prep your prime rib roast by trimming any extra fat off of it.

Combine the coriander, rosemary, fennel seed, ground mustard, garlic, salt, pepper, gravy seasoning and olive oil in a bowl. Rub this mixture all over the rib roast. Place roast on a v-rack set in a roasting pan.

Bake the roast uncovered in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, decrease the heat to 375 and continue cooking the roast uncovered for 2 1/2 hours (if you have a 10 lb roast). Bake about 15-18 minutes per pound.

Remove roast from oven and allow it to rest at room temperature for 20-30 minutes before carving.

Get rid of the gluten, but not the flavor with McCormick Gluten-Free Recipe Mixes! Visit the Recipe Collection at to discover more flavorful gluten free eating and meal ideas!
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of McCormick Gluten-Free Recipe Mix. The opinions and text are all mine.

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