Thursday, July 23, 2015

Red Eye Sponsors Battle of the Burgers

battle of the burger 2

If you're looking for a tasting event this weekend, be sure to check out the Battle of the Burgers, hosted by Chicago's RedEye and Amstel Light! For more details and ticket information, check out ChiStarConnections on how you can attend and experience some delicious burgers!...

Olive & Pepper Penne Salad with Citrus Chickpea Dressing

While many are enjoying summer festivities, there are a few that cannot wait for the school year. The start of the school year is fast approaching and this summer, it has been hard for some children. Hunger strikes many people all over the country and as a food blogger/chef, it pains me to think of individuals who don't have proper meals. Summer is especially difficult because many federal breakfast and lunch support programs are only in operation during the school year. That means during the summer, there is a definite increase need for food assistance. And it also means that 21 million children are missing out on free or reduced-price meals in the summer months from June until September.

In an effort to help fight hunger, I've teamed up with Dreamfields Pasta in their special Pastapalooza Market Basket ChallengeThroughout the summer, Dreamfields Pasta will be hosting five separate “Market Basket Challenges” where bloggers are asked to use ingredients in a market basket (plus up to 2 other ingredients) to create an original pasta salad, side dish or summer entree recipe. 

Readers, fans, friends and followers are called to vote for the recipe they like best during each challenge - one vote can be casted per day for the recipe of your choice and each challenge will last one week.

The winning recipe/blogger will receive a $1,000 donation made in their name to their local food bank. A $200 donation will also be made to the local food bank of each runner-up. 

And as a bonus – one voter from each Market Basket Challenge will be chosen at random to win a family pack of Dreamfields pasta and a $1,000 donation to the food bank of their choice. So the more readers, fans, friends and followers vote, the more chances I have to win!

For my Middle Eastern Market Basket Challenge, I was asked to prepare a dish using the following ingredients: cumin/Za’atar/Harissa, legumes, garlic, chutney and citrus.I also had the option to also add up to two ingredients of my choice to round out my dish. Dreamfields pasta, salt, pepper, oil and water were “free ingredients.” 

With Middle Eastern flavors in mind, I was inspired to make this Olive & Pepper Penne Salad with a Citrus Chickpea Dressing. And if I win, I would love to donate winnings to the Northern Illinois Food Bank... It's a local organization that's close to my heart and I support their efforts to help those in need in my area.

So if you would like to help fight hunger while enjoying a new recipe of Middle Eastern flavors, please vote for my dish here at the Dreamfields Pastapalooza voting pageVoting ends for The Middle Eastern Basket Challenge ends at 11:59PM EDT, July 29, 2015.


original recipe by What's Cookin, Chicago

Preparation Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 12-15 minutes

1 pound Dreamfields Penne Rigate

1/2 cup canned garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained, divided

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup tomato chutney

2 medium lemons, juiced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and sliced

1/4 cup roasted red peppers, sliced



1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Place pasta in large bowl; set aside.

2. Meanwhile, place 1/4 cup of the garbanzo beans, cumin, water, oil, chutney, lemon juice

and garlic in bowl of food processor; pulse until combined. Season with salt and pepper,

as desired. Toss dressing with pasta. Add remaining garbanzo beans, olives and

roasted red peppers; toss to combine well. Serve immediately or chilled.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information (1/6 of recipe): 430 calories; 11 g protein; 67 g carbohydrates; 16 g total

fat; 1 g saturated fat; 0 mg cholesterol; 350 mg sodium; 8 g total dietary fiber.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Lemon Blueberry Bundt Cake

Some folks aren't big on baking during the summer months... do you fall in that camp? I can certainly see why that is. Who wants to turn the oven on and heat up the kitchen when it's already hot as it is (in some parts of the country) with the air conditioning blasting?! Summer hasn't quite reached us here in the Midwest, at least not for very long, so baking wasn't really a problem. That said, the bigger problem is deciding what to make and how to make use of some of the seasonal fruits available! I had quite a few blueberries on hand and that's when I decided on making this Lemon Blueberry Bundt Cake, A sweet batter studded with fresh blueberries which is finished off with a honey and lemon glaze...

With some help from my friends at Krusteaz, I made this quick and easy dessert to enjoy with some refreshing iced tea and lemonade on a lazy summer day - and you can too! As a Krusteaz Bakers Dozen Member, check out the recipe I made for Krusteaz on their website!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Ted's Montana Grill {Review}

Patrick and I had visited our friends out in Denver earlier this month. While there, I had a chance to try some dishes made with bison, a game meat that is much more intense with beefy flavor and so tender. When we got back, I couldn't stop thinking about bison and where in Illinois/Chicagoland I could enjoy it. Well, the answer was easy.... Ted's Montana Grill. This restaurant was not far from us and we had never gone before so it was fun to experience what the restaurant had to offer.
The menu was pretty straightforward and the star is their bison burgers. By featuring the biggest bison menu in the world, Ted’s Montana Grill has made bison a popular menu choice today in dining, providing incentive for ranchers to actively grow their herds. We were given some bison to sample, just to taste the difference and it as pretty clear... the flavor of bison is a clean and intense flavor of beef. It's not as fatty but even with bison being leaner than beef, it wasn't dry. Ted's Montana Grill definitely knows how to make bison shine!

We kicked off our dinner with onion rings. What we were served were clearly the biggest onion rings I've ever encountered! They were huge sweet vidalia onions dipped in buttermilk, seasoned and then hand-breaded in a fine cracker crumb before frying up to a golden brown. They were served with a horseradish sauce and were so crisp and flavorful without falling apart like many other onion rings I've tried. One order will easily feed a table of 4 and its certainly an appetizer you shouldn't miss!

We didn't have any difficulty deciding on what to order - bison burgers, of course! They offer a few different ones on their menu - 18 to be exact - and there is something for everyone. I went with their Avalon Burger, which consisted of Gruyere cheese, blue cheese, bacon caramelized onions, roasted garlic aioli and baby arugula. This burger was so flavorful with all the toppings complimenting it perfectly. The burger was served with seasoned fries, which were also very good!

Patrick also had a bison burger and opted for their Blue Creek burger. This burger was topped with blue cheese and bacon, with lettuce, tomato and onion on the side. Also served with seasoned french fries, this was a solid, delicious burger as well.

And just went we thought we were full, we were given a dessert menu. But who could resist even taking a look at dessert regardless of how full you may be? Patrick and I certainly couldn't lol. Before long, this appeared on our table. Could this be the tallest strawberry shortcake I've ever seen? Most likely. And as we continued to laugh and eat, we were surprised that the shortcake was pretty much consumed. Oink.

Overall, our meal and service was outstanding. I'm thankful that good, quality bison burgers are closer than I previously thought and I don't have to hop a plane to go to Denver for one! With 45 restaurants over 16 states, you don't have travel far for one either! I highly recommend a visit to your nearest location when you get a chance...

And while you're there, take part in Ted’s Montana Grill’s social media contest, Ted’s Burger Selfie! In celebration of National Bison Month in July, Ted’s is giving fans the chance to win the grand prize of a Big Green Egg! Click here to enterThe contest is running now through August 11th - good luck!

-Love your Ted’s burger? Prove it. Snap a photo while enjoying your burger with #TedsBurgerSelfie
-Participants can enter by adding the hashtag to their Twitter or Instagram picture or by entering straight through the app on our Facebook page
-Weekly winners will be chosen at random and will win a Ted’s Swag Bag
-Grand prize winner will be chosen by a panel of judges for photo we think best shows how much they love their Ted’s burger!

Monday, July 20, 2015

3rd Annual Bull Burger Battle - Who Will Reign Supreme?!

If you love burgers on the grill, you're in for a treat! Bull Outdoor Products is on a nationwide search to find the country’s best burgers and you could be on your way to food fame and fortune! The nation's best burger cooks and chefs will be squaring off in the Bull Burger Battle, a series of five live event burger cookoffs across the country. Up to 18 competitors in each city, from backyard heroes to notable cooks and restaurants, will be firing up for bragging rights as the 'best burger' in their hometown and an amazing Bull Outdoor grill. And it doesn't stop there, each Bull Burger Battle champion will have a chance to prove their burger isn’t just the best burger in their hometown, but the best in the world!

The Bull Burger Battle series started in 2013, with battles taking place in San Diego, Baton Rouge, Chicago, Indianapolis and Oklahoma City. The battles were a tour de force of burger supremacy proving that championship burgers are created on Bull Outdoor grills. In fact, Team Bull has been an unstoppable force at the World Food Championships ever since, taking the burger title two years in a row! This year the 2015 Bull Burger Battle locations include:
  • Baton Rouge, LA May 16 2015 - Goodwood Hardware & Outdoors
  • Mahopac,NY June 6, 2015 - Family Leisure
  • Chicago, IL July 25, 2015 - American Sale
  • San Marcos, CA August 8, 2015 - Carddine Spas
  • Indianapolis, IN September 30, 2015 - Family Leisure
So if you're free this Saturday in the Chicagoland area, check out the Bull Burger Battle event!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

American Sale Carol Stream Store
320 Army Trail Road
Carol Stream IL 

10am Festivities begin
11am Teams begin to light their grills
12:50pm Burger Judging begins
3pm Awards are issued

This is a fun and delicious event for the whole family! Aside from the tasty anticipation, there will be a DJ, bounce house and face painter for the kiddies. The Chicago Bears Mascot,Staley De Bear will also make an appearance too. Live cooking demonstrations will also take place by the 2013 Americansale Bull Burger Champ and two time World Burger Champion, Wade Fortin. And if you love to shop, take advantage of the big tent sale where you can save up to 80% on patio and more!

Paloma Diabla Cocktail

This is the summer of cocktails! I've been enjoying the summer with cocktails in hand given all the entertaining I've been doing lately. From the holiday cook outs to themed dinners and even the occasional impromptu happy hours with friends, combining spirits with fresh fruits to fit menus I've prepared has been really fun. I recently came across a new subscription service focused on exactly that - cocktails!
Cocktail Courier by Shakestir is a subscription service that focuses on cocktails where they provide you complete recipes along with everything you need and delivers it all right to your door. It's such a great service because you no longer need to figure out what spirits you need, how much to get and how to create it. Cocktail Courier does all the hard work for you... and you're left to simply shake it all up and start sipping!

Cocktail Courier's goal is to demystify the craft cocktail process by delivering its cocktail packages complete with pre-measured ingredients (yes, including the liquor!) and an easy to follow recipe card with step by step instructions. Their website curates award-winning recipes from top local professional bartenders in each city to be featured. Currently, the service is available in New York City and Chicago. But even if you don't live in these cities, you can still check out the amazing cocktail recipes available and make them yourself!

As for the subscription service, you select what cocktails from their extensive cocktail list that appeals to you and place in your cart. The cocktails featured on the site can be ordered a la carte (as sets of 4, 6, or 12 drinks), or as part of a subscription package (weekly or bi-monthly). Need bar tools or glassware? They got that available for you too! Once you sign up and subscribe, they'll start preparing your cocktail package with the goodies you selected.

Each box is carefully packaged with all the necessary ingredients of your chosen cocktails - including garnishes! The ingredients come with printed step by step instructions on how to make each drink. Perishable items, such as fresh squeezed lime juice, are stored in refrigerated packets to ensure they stay fresh during transport.

The last step is selecting your delivery date and wait for your goodies to arrive. Once delivered, all you have left to do is to open the box, shake or stir as directed, then sit back and enjoy! My Cocktail Courier arrived recently and I was excited to try out this fruity and refreshing Paloma Diabla Cocktail...

The Paloma Diabla cocktail is the perfect drink for a summer day. Made with fresh grapefruit juice, lime juice, habanero cinnamon syrup, agave nectar, soda water and tequila (which can be omitted for 'virgin drinks') this delicious concoction is sweet, tart, and has a little spicy kick!

Paloma Diabla Cocktail
recipe by Cocktail Courier

2 ounces Tequila Avion Silver
3 ounces fresh grapefruit juice
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
1 ounce habanero cinnamon syrup
1/4 ounce agave nectar
1 ounce soda water
grapefruit triangle for garnish

jigger or measuring cup
cobbler shaker
bottle opener
small knife
Collins glass

Chill the Collins glass by placing in fridge/freezer or by filling with ice water (optional step).

Measure and pour all ingredients, except club soda and garnish, into cobbler shaker.

Fill shaker wih ice, place top back on and ensure that shaker is securely closed.

Give shaker 10 quick and vigorous shakes.

Remove top of shaker, add measured amount of club soda and swirl shaker to combine all ingredients.

Place top backon shaker and strain contents into ice-filled Collins glass.

Garnish with grapefruit triangle.

[Note: To create a grapefruit triangle, cut the grapefruit in slices. Cut each slice into fourths. The end result will be grapefruit triangles.]

Friday, July 17, 2015

Smoky BBQ Ribs with Spicy Sriracha BBQ Sauce

Have you got your summer grilling game on? Despite the amount of rain we've gotten here in the Midwest, it hasn't kept us from grilling up our favorite dishes. BBQ ribs is one of our favorites on the grill and part of the fun is making sure they are finger licking good with a great BBQ sauce. These Smoky BBQ Ribs are rubbed with a blend of spices and glazed with a kickin' spicy sriracha sauce! Talk about a tasty way to turn up the heat with the grill on a summer day...

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