Wednesday, November 19, 2014

November Resto Round Up!

Patrick and I have been so busy lately but I love that we are never too busy to schedule date nights together each week. We enjoy checking out restaurants to try out new offerings, learn about new restaurant concepts and above all, enjoy great food! Here is a round up of recent places we've visited and things we've tried. Perhaps you're due for a visit to one of these places yourself!...

Growing up, I remember enjoying visits to our local Bakers Square restaurant with my dad. It was such a treat for him to take us out and enjoy a slice of their pie. We recently visited Bakers Square and it still has the same comfortable feel, only now with a more modern and updated look! Bakers Square started to remodel their locations with a new color scheme and it looks fantastic. Looks aside, the food is still wonderful, if not better too!  They have upped their game and some of the new offerings we had the opportunity to try included their savory pot roast, chicken pot pie, Crush burgers, and their turkey tetrazzini bake of their 'Bakers Bundle' combo meal, We also got a taste of their Country Benedict from their brunch menu, which is available on the weekend until 2pm. 

If you don't know this yet, you can enjoy a FREE Slice of Pie with any menu item purchase from open until close on Wednesdays! Choose from more than 25 varieties of Bakers Square pies to enjoy with your meal for FREE. Bakers Square’s irresistible selections include: 

  • Country Apple: Sliced apples, sweetened and spiced with cinnamon.
  • Banana Cream: Fresh ripe bananas, fresh whipped cream with sliced almonds.
  • Blueberry: One of Bakers Square’s all-time favorites, bursting with plump, refreshing blueberries
  • Cherry: With juicy, tart, red cherries.
  • Coconut Cream: Coconut folded into our rich vanilla cream.
  • French Apple: Our traditional apple filling with a rich butter crumb topping
  • Lemon Meringue: Light, fluffy meringue that sits on top of an irresistible tangy lemon filling
  • Peach: Made with delicately seasoned, sun-ripened free stone peaches.
  • Pumpkin: A seasonal favorite that’s loved year-round.
There's also the New Pick 3 Pie Shop Special meals which includes the best-of-the-best Baker’s Square combos you love– plus they all include a slice of pie! The menu allows guests to pick 3 different items and create their own meal, ranging in price from only $8.99 - $9.99. Combos are divided by 3 categories: Artisan, Primo and Classic. *Pie Shop Specials are not valid when combined with Pie Rush Wednesday.

If you haven't visited Bakers Square recently, now's a great time and while you're there, be sure to pick up a pie for your holiday gatherings!

It's Stone Crab Season and Del Frisco's kicked off the season with a special unveiling of these prized crabs! We recently visited Del Frisco's for a taste of the first of the season's Stone Crab Claws that were flown fresh from the Florida Keys, one of the only regions where they are available.  The sweet, firm crab claw meat is not widely available, only appearing on the menus of select restaurants outside of their native Florida. While dining at Del Frisco's we not only sampled steamed Stone Crab Claws and a fresh crab cake, but indulged in a Filet Mignon Trio and Bone In Ribeye. To accompany our entrees, we had a mini buffet of sides including their ever popular Lobster Mac & Cheese, Lobster Mashed Potatoes, Grilled Asparagus, and Brussel Sprouts. If that weren't enough, we ended our meal with a sampling of their desserts including their signature Lemon Cake, Warm Banana Bread Pudding and Chocolate Souffle Cake. We're big fans of Del Frisco's and look forward to our next visit. Service is impeccable, decor is classy and chic and the food is outstanding! 

Since it is Stone Crab Season, here are some fun facts about stone crabs...
·         Florida Stone Crab are not to be confused with Alaskan King Crab or Crab legs or soft shell crabs or jumbo lump crab meat. These are claws from a crab caught off the shores of Florida. Del Frisco’s works with three purveyors in Florida to get the freshest product flown to the restaurants daily.
·         Stone crab claws are considered highly sustainable, given the designated season to harvest and as one claw is harvested from the crabs and the crab is then returned to the sea so it can regenerate the claw.  Additionally, claws must be at least 2.75 inches long to be harvested; claws cannot be taken from egg-bearing females.
·         These crabs have the unusual ability to lose a claw without feeling any pain. The separation always occurs at one of the joints to protect the crab from bleeding. The larger claw is kept and the crab is thrown back alive where it will grow back its claw for the next year’s harvest.

Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar recently launch their new late night happy hour - 8 for $9’ til 10 , featuring delicious items like savory Ahi Tuna Tacos for just $9 from 8-10 P.M. in addition to some great cocktails. When we went, we were impressed with the various options on the 8-9-10 menu. We enjoyed the following items that were not only delicious but were generous portions for a nice tapas feel...
charred grape tomatoes, wild arugula, toasted garlic crostini
danish blue and monterey jack cheeses, red onion confit
wisconsin cheddar cheese, peppered bacon, double-cut french fries
served with fresh blueberry and vanilla-lemon dipping sauces

We definitely will be back as we only tried half of the menu... and that was plenty for us to split and share between the two of us! If you thought Fleming's was just a place for fine steaks and wine, think again... this is a perfect place for friends, date or even a happy hour with coworkers after a long day. They make a steakhouse approachable with tapas style menus to pick and choose from while being affordable!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Sous Vide Caramel Apple Galette

Thanksgiving is merely 2 weeks away... are you ready? I know of quite a few friends who have their menus drafted and their shopping list started. Where are you in the holiday planning? For me, I'm playing with a few recipes to try out, as we are hosting a Post-Thanksgiving Friendsgiving dinner. One of the recipes I tinkered with recently is for this Sous Vide Caramel Apple Galette. Honeycrisp apples are tossed with brown sugar, cinnamon and a touch of vanilla and slow cooked in a sous vide until tender to create a perfectly seasonal filling for a galette drenched in buttery caramel...

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Holiday Foodie Finds: November Edition!

If you're like me, you're probably gearing up for Thanksgiving later this month!  I've been checking out a few new things that can help me for the holidays both in and out of the kitchen, while being somewhat food related. Here are some foodie finds that I recently enjoyed and maybe you'll find something that can help you with the holiday prep in a couple of weeks...

I can never have too many frying pans. I learned about the TeChef brand when I was looking for some pans to use for my culinary classes. What I like about these frying pans is that they are bottom heavy. This allows heat to evenly spread across the bottom and then up the sides. Another plus is that they are not only good on standard gas and electric ranges, but I love that they work well with induction cooktops too! The pans come in a few different colors but I love the olive pan since it goes well in my kitchen.

I was recently in the market for a new citrus press and so I got two of them to compare since I just couldn't decide between the two. This one by BTipsy was so easy to use and squeezing every drop of juice was practically effortless.  The two handles allow for a great grip that even Joel (my 4+ year old) could do a great job juicing. It's a perfect size for all sorts of citrus fruits - lemons, limes, oranges, tangerines, etc. And this is a great tool to use for the holiday cocktails and holiday baked goods using citrus! Congrats to Melissa who will receive this Lemon Squeezer for her comment via Facebook!

The other citrus juicer I picked up was this one from Cookeezi. I love the chic and modern design and it was a good size that fit nicely in a standard drawer. Similar to other juicer, this one also yields a good amount of juice effortlessly. I especially like that this juicer is made with 18/10 stainless steel material which makes it pretty strong, durable, shiny and rust resistant. The long handles give me a better mechanical advantage, making juicing so easy. Cleaning is a breeze as this one is dishwasher safe too.

I'm pretty sure there will not be a shortage of mashed potatoes this Thanksgiving. I've always wondered if using a ricer/masher would make a big difference in my mashed potatoes. I picked up this Priority Chef® Potato Ricer and I've now been converted. Potatoes run through a ricer definitely yields a much better, fluffier and creamier mashed potatoes - no lumps! The ricer is a nice ergonomic, non-slip design with soft silicone handles. This one doesn't slip or slide when placed over a pot or bowl when ricing. Aside from mashed potatoes, I can see how this would be great for making baby food and various purees with fruits and vegetables. Oh, and this is dishwasher safe too since its made with stainless steel. 

I can never be without a zester/grater in my kitchen. With so many things to use it with (citrus fruits, chocolate, cheeses and even spices - there's always something you can use it for. This one is made with high grade stainless steel and the durable blade doesn't need sharpening. The handle has a soft comfortable non-slip grip ad overall, its a unique ergonomic design for maximum control for easy use. 
Steel Grater/Zester
** receive 25% off promo code! **
I also picked up this other steel grater/zest, which also has a snap on plastic cover for safety. The rubber feet help hold the grater in place during use and protects my counter from scratches. If you want to check this out for yourself, you can receive 25% off using this promo code at checkout: ZVXSILFZ (expires 12/31/14).
I was in needof a new colander for pasta, vegetables and other preparations. In fact, one of my fave uses for a colander is to steam tamales in it, which is usually around the holidays. The holes of this colander are less than 1/16" in diameter, which are small enough to prevent even cooked rice and orzo from slipping through. And I also learned than water actually drains faster from smaller holes than larger holes! This is due to less solid surface to slow it down, which is why his mesh-style perforation colander is so effective. The entire bowl, from the bottom to the rim, is perforated so there's nowhere for water to get trapped. Another feature of the colander is the base. It's one solid circle of stainless steel that keeps the colander safely level. It also allows your food to be elevated above the floor of the sink and whatever water hasn't yet gone down the drain. And like many of the items I've recently tried, this is also dishwasher safe since its made out of stainless steel.

I tend to use my peeler more during the holiday food prep namely for the various side dishes I make. I was in need of a new one and tried this Deiss Dual Julienne & Vegetable peeler. It allows me to peel, julienne, slice and shred vegetables of any shape and size. It's not four different tools - just a single peeler that makes cooking fun. This tool is especially handy for prepping vegetables like potatoes, carrots, squash, etc. 

Heritage Tray from Reed & Barton
I'm always looking for elegant pieces to use for the holiday table. The Heritage Tray features a beveled glass insert nestled within a perfectly polished, pewter-plated tray. Graduated banded and beaded lines encircle the tray, a primary inspiration for this collection. Crafted in polished pewterplate, its rounded corners add a soft, modern ease to its classic profile and enhance the overall look. Available in 3 popular sizes, these metal trays can be a wonderful accessory for the bathroom, bedside table, bar, or office, as much as platters for dining and food presentation. Congrats to Eva who will receive this Heritage Tray for her comment below!

Tea Infuser and Matching Drip Tray
** receive 25% off promo code! **
Not everyone is a coffee drinker like me and for our upcoming holiday parties, I like to offer both coffee and tea services. Although grabbing a few tea bags and placing them on the table would be easy, I like to add a special touch for my holiday events. I came across these tea infusers which are perfect for tea lovers. It's a great shape and made out of silicone so it's easy to use and comfortable to hold. The silicone material is resistant to temperatures up to 400 degrees (F) and it also comes with a matching drip tray to hold the infuser in between uses. I love that I can offer loose teas (which I personally prefer over bagged teas) and guests can enjoy them with an infuser for more flavor and unwanted chemicals or unpleasant flavors. You can also give this tea infuser a try by receiving a 25% off discount using this promo code @ checkout: OEE6E3IU (expires 12/31/14).

While we're on the topic of teas, I can't help but mention coffees too. I'm hosting an upcoming Holiday Cookie Swap and will be offering a variety of coffees and hot chocolate bar. To help make it easy for guests to fill up and enjoy their favorite cup of joe or cocoa, I picked up a couple electric milk frothers. They froth up hot or cold milk in just seconds so guests don't have to wait long to enjoy their holiday drinks. It can froth up to 115ml  of hot or cold milk in under two minutes for sophisticated coffeehouse-style beverages such as lattes, cappuccinos, breves and even hot chocolate. The interior is also non-stick, which is great for easy clean up. There is also a built in heat control and automatic shut off feature that prevents burning. And because my little guy is a hot chocolate fan, I don't have to worry too much with him around the frother since the stainless-steel, insulated jar allows outer wall to remain cool to the touch while milk warms inside.

Teacup Shaped Silicone Cupcake Liners
** receive $5 off promo code! **
I'm doing my fair share of baking this holiday and I'm always on the look out for cute and unique bakeware. I came across these cute teacup liners made out of silicone, which are perfect to use for cupcakes, brownies, and other dessert ideas. These come in white, so its versatile to use for different occasions, not just for the holidays. And as previously mentioned, they can be used to bake recipes in (as they are oven save, but the saucers are not) or simply as a way to present items like chocolate, fruits, jellies, condiments, etc. They are easy to use and cleam and are made of food grade silicone. You can also give these silicone tea cup liners a try by receiving a $5 off discount using this promo code @ checkout: GMGZFVE6 (expires 12/31/15).

The holidays are just around the corner and I love coming up with seasonal cocktails to serve with appetizers. I came across this cocktail muddler by BTipsy and LOVE it! It's perfect for muddling fresh herbs, spices and fruit. Unlike other muddlers I've used in the past, this one doesn't break or rust after a few uses. It has a grooved nylon head that doesn't corrode or pollute my drink liek some wooden lacquered muddlers on the market. And it's easy to clean and dishwasher safe too. Congrats to John who will receive this Cocktail Muddler for his comment via Facebook!

Some folks are hopping a plane to see loved ones for the holidays. Not necessarily food related, but I had to share my new find for these small packing cubes. These are AWESOME! I loved how organized  I was with my packing. These are made with a see through mesh panel which allows me to easily find what I need. They also maintain privacy while going through security in the airport. I also like that with the different cubes to form separate compartments, it makes it easy for me to pack and unpack what I need, when I need it. Lastly, they come in a variety of sizes to fit in all sorts of bags and luggage pieces.

If you're a fan of Instagram, you're going to LOVE this new tool . These days, more people are using their smartphone to take pictures everywhere and anywhere. These smartphones make it so easy. Now, there's a way to take smartphone photo taking to the next level. This Phoneography Starter Kit is everything you need to step up your camera phone photo game: a Wide/Macro lens and a phone camera filter. The Wide/Macro Lens allows you to shoot with the Wide angle lens, and then unscrew it to reveal a useful macro lens. The Phone-o-chrome Phone filter add shades of color to your photos to make them unique and even more eye catching. Included in the package is Phoneography 101, a four week course that teaches you photography fundamentals through the lens of your phone. Bite-sized lessons show up in your inbox complete with fun challenges to get you shooting. (And when you finish, you get a $10 Gift Card! Score!) This kit makes the perfectest present for any smartphone picture taker or for anyone that wants to maximize their smartphone camera.

It seems like everywhere I look, chalkboards are a crafty trend. Along with that are chalk markers. I was looking for some chalk markers that dry fast and don't smudge and found them with Go Chalk It Markers. They're easy to clean with a damp cloth and they don't leave a dust like ordinary chalk. It's not only perfect for crafters but children too. Each package contains 8 colors: ( Blue, Green, Orange, Pink, Purple, Red, White, & Yellow) and are great as a gift for teachers too. 

Lastly, with the shortened days and lack of natural sunlight, I was looking for a light that helps combat seasonal change. This lamp is great because it simulates natural sunlight and eases “winter blues,” the effects of shift work, jet lag, malaise or fatigue. For those food photography buffs, this light also helps with photo taking as it offers a bright light similar to natural sunlight. Congrats to Rochelle, who will receive a Verilux HappyLight Lamp for her comment below!

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.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Sous Vide Chili Rubbed Ribeye Steak

Steak. It's what's for dinner. We are definitely carnivores at home and we enjoy our share of good steaks. So when I got the SousVide Supreme, I knew I had to try my hand at a sous vide steak. The result was beyond amazing. This Sous Vide Chili Rubbed Ribeye Steak was rubbed with a blend of paprika, chili powder, kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper gently prepared submerged in a water bath to create a tender, flavorful steak cooked to perfection inside and out...

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Sous Vide Pot Roast

Clocks have been set back an hour this past weekend and I am thrilled to have that extra hour to use! But along with that hour is having to deal with shorter days, early nights and well, the winter weather mindset comes in with the cold temps. When the cold sets in, I want nothing more than comfort food. So I've been looking through my lists of favorite comfort foods to draw some inspiration for dinners. One dish on my list was pot roast. My ideal pot roast should have this deep color which translates to rich flavors. I'd also like it served with creamy mashed potatoes and some veggies to balance things out. So with my pot roast craving on full drive, I made it... but in a non-traditional way. This pot roast is a taste of a different cooking method that achieves a tender pot roast full of flavor. And can you believe it was prepared submerged in water? Queue the plated photo of Sous Vide Pot Roast...

Monday, November 3, 2014

GF Bananas Foster Pancakes

Pancakes are a special weekend treat at our house. My lil guy, Joel, loves to help out in the kitchen, especially during weekend breakfasts and this past weekend was no exception. We enjoy playing around with ingredients to add to our pancakes or coming up with a different topping aside from the usual maple syrup. So when I got the craving for New Orleans cuisine, these GF Banana Foster Pancakes came to mind. But there's a bonus - these are gluten free, thanks to some help from my friends at Krusteaz! Diced up fresh bananas and a touch of vanilla make for sweet pancakes, with a decadent topping of brown sugar, butter, more bananas and some rum!...

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!
Subscribe to Feeds
Follow Me on Twitter
Add in Facebook