Roasted Chicken – the Awesome Budget Stretching Food

Every time I roast a chicken, I am reminded that there’s a reason chickens are awesome.

I had seven people over for dinner last Friday, and chose two plump roasters at my butcher shop. Out the door, less than ten dollars.

Click into photo for recipe and source

Click into photo for recipe and source

Continue reading

Restaurant Visit: Circa 57 in Arlington Heights

We have been eyeing Circa 57 since it opened. The problem is that Music Man and I are eyeing it through different lenses.

Circa 57 is a new restaurant in downtown Arlington Heights, Illinois, and includes the space at the corner of Vail and Campbell previously occupied by the Grand Station restaurant and Peoples Bank. It’s got a wonderful location!

I was intrigued by the possibilities of their food mission. Music Man wasn’t so sure — he wasn’t interested in ever going back to the food of 1957, thank you very much. I was relieved to actually see the menu. Even though it includes throwback style food, many of the offerings are updated for the more sophisticated tastes of today. Continue reading

Eataly Chicago — a Foodie Fantasy Destination

Yes, I typed that right. EATALY — a very cute pun on Italy, but Eataly is more than just a cute name. It’s truly a foodie fantasy destination right here in Chicago.

Co-owned by Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich, the Chicago location is housed in the former ESPN Zone location near Michigan Avenue at Ohio and Wabash. The 63,000 sq. ft. food palace is the second Eataly location in the U.S. The only other U.S. outlet in New York opened in 2010, but media hype says that the next location will likely be in Philadelphia.The first Eataly opened in Turin, Italy, in 2007 and there are now Eataly locations in many major Italian cities.

Eataly Chicago is a foodie destination with 23 restaurants and food bars, one fine dining restaurant and lots of food products for sale. Upon opening on December 2, 2013, Eataly was overrun with locals and tourists, which resulted in its having to close for one day on December 9 in order to restock after its first week of business. We waited until the Sunday after Christmas to venture downtown to check out Eataly and I was not disappointed. It’s a foodie’s paradise. Continue reading

Broccoli-Cauliflower Swiss Cheese Soup: On the Menu Monday

I didn’t set out to make this beautiful cheese soup. It just kind of happened.

GotMyReservations -- Broccoli-Cauliflower Swiss Cheese Soup

I had a lovely small piece of steak thawing, and I thought about making beef stroganoff. I love everything about beef stroganoff, from the tender seared beef to the sweet sauce with a touch of sherry and cream. With perfectly browned mushrooms added to the mix, this recipe has been one of my staples for years.

Sounds fabulous, right?

But there’s a catch. We’ve been trying to do meat on the side and include lots of veggies on our plates. We’re not eating much white food either, and our list of no white food such as potatoes, bread, and rice includes the obvious noodles that would complement the beef stroganoff. Even if they’re whole wheat, they are still a healthy dose of carbohydrates that we are trying to avoid in our diets.

What is meat on the side?

If you are watching Food Network Star, you know that bright and bubbly Nikki Dinki was eliminated. I’m sad to see her go, but at least I have the consolation of being able to follow her lovely blog, Nikki Dinki Cooking. Her prospective show for Food Network would have focused on using meat as a side dish rather than as the main dish, and her recipes are creative and yummy. When I ran across her recipe for Cheddar Cauliflower + Squash Soup, I knew I had a winner for our meal.

Of course, I had to remix the recipe. To contrast with the beef, I wanted a lighter cheese, so I bought Trader Joe’s mix of Swiss and Gruyere. TJ’s didn’t have the cut-up squash that they sometimes carry, so I grabbed a bag of mixed broccoli and cauliflower. With a box of baby bella mushrooms to saute and serve with the beef, we were all set to go. At the last minute I realized that the milder Swiss cheese would need sherry and nutmeg rather than the spicy mix in Nikki’s soup, so I also grabbed a bottle of dry sherry and practically ran to the checkout.

GotMyReservations -- Broccoli-Cauliflower Swiss Cheese Soup Title

Nikki’s recipe is really easy to make and with the substitutions, it was perfect with the beef. I highly recommend this recipe, whether you make it Nikki’s way or mine.

I’m linking up to Metamorphasis Monday at Between Naps on the Porch and Martha Mondays Link Up Party at Watch Out, Martha! Be sure to visit some creative and inspiring bloggers to get more ideas!

Got my bags, got my reservations,
Spent each dime I could afford. 
Like a child in wild anticipation, 
I long to hear that, “All aboard!”

Music and lyrics by Bud Green, Les Brown and Ben Homer (1944)

Monday, Monday — Can’t Trust Myself with a Refrigerator Filled with Leftovers

It’s Monday and it’s Twinkie Day — but not in my house. It’s leftover week at the Farm.

Thankfully, Twinkies are not one of the things that float my culinary boat.Unfortunately, there are too many other foods that do, and many of them are residing in my fridge right now.


I threw myself a birthday party on Saturday with about thirty of our closest friends attending. They are more like family than friends — we love each other, we fight with each other, we confide in each other, we travel together, and we raise each other’s children and grandchildren as needed. And we love to eat — thus the loaded refrigerator.

In the privacy of my own kitchen after everyone has gone and Music Man has gone back to work, I can go back to the leftovers and savor them.

The Metro Potato Salad from Mariano’s — red potatoes with the skins still on, dill, eggs, finely chopped celery for crunch, a little vinegar for acid and lots and lots of mayo. Heaven. I have to portion it out carefully so that I don’t eat two cups of it at one sitting.

The hot wings are happily congealed in all their greasy goodness in Tupperware. I made them from some leftover frozen wings and some leftover roasted chicken from another party. Nobody ate the legs and the wings at the other party, so I bundled them up and froze them. I knew they’d make a good quick appetizer for another event and there they were in my freezer when I needed them. I put some fresh BBQ sauce on them and threw them in the crockpot and we were in business. At five or six pieces per sitting, I’ll get four happy meals out of those leftovers. Can’t help but smile when I think about it.

And then there’s the veggie cassoulet. It was an experiment which I’ll share later on this week and boy, is it good. There’s at least five servings of beans left in the fridge, too. Mmmm…

The leftover cheese is almost gone already — I needed a quick jolt of fatty protein after church yesterday, after all — and the rest of the vat of iced tea I’m finishing as I write. I took the leftover cookies to church, so they’re not around to tempt us, but we’ve still got fruit salad for an army. When I say army, I probably mean two sixty-something adults who live on fruit salad this time of year. It won’t last long, either.

Got My Reservations -- Grilled Beef

We grilled up all the leftover shish-ke-bob meat last night and froze it on trays so that it can be pulled from the freezer in individual batches; I envision salads topped with marinated chicken breast pieces, beef stroganoff, and maybe some pork-fried rice coming out of those leftovers. There’s a lot that can be done with leftovers — try this fab recipe from my archives.

Leftovers a la Pastitsio

I read somewhere that people are entertaining at home again. Maybe leftovers are why.

Market Fresh: Dilled Cucumbers

We’ve been haunting the local farmers’ market getting market-fresh fruits and veggies. I picked up some gorgeous cucumbers and a wonderfully pungent batch of fresh dill and there was no question what to make — dilled cucumbers!

I find that sometimes I forget the simple pleasures of summer veggies in my zeal to try something new. Dilled Cucumbers is an oldie-but-goodie that should be in every cook’s summer menu plans! Try this favorite recipe to cool down your summer table.

Dilled Cucumbers

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 4 Servings

Dilled Cucumbers

Low calorie and delicious, dilled cucumbers just hit the spot for an easy summer meal.


  • 2 cucumbers
  • 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt (sour cream works well, too, if you prefer)
  • 1 tablespoon flavored white balsamic vinegar (try Honey Ginger Balsamic)
  • 1/4 cup dill, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt


Prepare the cucumbers. I peeled mine this time, but I don't always. Sometimes I make stripes with the peeler. It totally depends on your mood. Some people cut out the seeds, but I don't always do that either.

Cut the cucumbers into 1/8 inch slices and put them into a colander. Toss the pieces with the salt and let them drain into the sink or a bowl. The salt dries out the moisture and makes them extra crisp. Let the cucumbers sit while you make the dressing.

In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt, vinegar, and dill. Blend the dressing together with a wire whisk or a fork.

Pat the cucumbers dry with a towel and add them to the dressing bowl. Toss to coat the cucumber pieces with dressing.

Chill and serve, or serve immediately.


Market Fresh: Creamed Swiss Chard


A bunch of fresh rainbow swiss chard, straight from the Farmers’ Market, is a rare thing of beauty (even if the photo is a little out of focus — sorry).

My new trainer told me that I had to eat even more veggies and much less fruit than I have been, so off to the Farmers’ Market I went, ready to try new greens.

I grabbed this bunch of beautiful rainbow swiss chard and a huge bunch of kale and stuffed them into my oh-s0-green-unbleached canvas market bags. When I got them home, they practically engulfed my kitchen island.

So what’s to do with rainbow swiss chard? After searching my extensive recipe files 🙂 the internet I found a nice recipe from Martha Stewart. I rarely cook from Martha’s recipes anymore after I read the tell-all book, Martha Stewart: Just Desserts, and learned that her recipes often have missing or incorrect ingredients. But maybe that was before she became an internet maven…

The first thing that I did was clean the chard; I trimmed the bad ends from the stalks and washed the leaves thoroughly. Then, following directions from the recipe, I cut all the stalks into small pieces and started sauteeing them with the onions and garlic.

Then I cut the leaves into strips, which was really fun. When you roll up a chard leaf, it’s easy to make clean strips of beautiful green. My huge bunch of chard filled a colander to overflowing, but when you cook it down, it becomes just enough for four servings of creamy deliciousness.

I made the white sauce — VERY EASY, ladies — and grated in lots of fresh nutmeg. Since I was only using one bunch of chard, I altered the white sauce recipe to serve four rather than twelve, and I used skim milk. No problem with the sauce thickening up, and it tastes just fine.

I am cooking for the empty nest, so I poured the finished product into four ramekins and topped them with a few pinenuts for crunch. I never met a pinenut I didn’t like, by the way.

Served with a sliced tomato and a white cheddar cheese log, also fresh from the market, we had an easy and delicious light lunch on a busy Saturday.

I have no reservations about recommending Martha Stewart’s recipe for Creamed Swiss Chard!

I’m linking up today to On the Menu Monday at Stonegable — be sure to stop by to see what other bloggers have to share today.



Bookin’ and Cookin’ — Mr. Darcy’s Secret and Spinach Herb Quiche

Jane Odiwe’s Jane Austen sequels have been sitting on my Goodreads list for a while. I haven’t had much success with Austen sequels; most writers have tried to match Austen’s witty prose and failed and then replaced the wittiness with sex. They were boring and an insult to my beloved Jane’s memory. Some even added zombies and sea monsters to the mix. This one was different and deserves the 4 out of 5 star ratings it receives on both and Goodreads.

Click the book cover to read Chapter One of Mr. Darcy’s Secret from Jane Odiwe’s website.

Elizabeth and Darcy arrive at Pemberley after their marriage, ready to begin a new chapter in their lives. Lizzy is learning to be the mistress of a great estate and in order to encourage Georgiana to be more outgoing, a great ball for her society debut is held at Pemberley. Of course, there is the usual Austen drama involving class struggles, and Elizabeth also tries to reconcile Lady Catherine with Darcy after their falling out over the marriage.

While its suggestive title may lead one to believe otherwise, Mr. Darcy’s Secret is primarily about Georgiana’s love story. She struggles with accepting a marriage proposal from an eligible but indifferent  suitor but wants to be dutiful and obey her strong-minded and well-meaning brother. All the while,  she is indulging in innocent flirtation with an entirely unsuitable prospect, the landscape architect hired to do some design work on Pemberley’s gardens. As in Jane Austen’s stories, how Georgiana resolves her dilemma is the main story line — and of course, it resolves in a fully Janeite way.

The title refers to a skeleton from Pemberley’s past that the Darcys have in their closet. Trust Caroline Bingley and the local gossip Mrs. Eaton to try to destroy Elizabeth and Darcy’s happy new marriage with hints of secret affairs and illegitimate children, requiring a stiff upper lip and a lot of standing by her man by Elizabeth.

Jane Odiwe uses Austen’s voice effectively, especially when she mimics Mrs. Bennett and Lady Catherine de Bourge, and she continues the characterization created by Austen in her books. All of your favorite characters from Pride and Prejudice show up for their cameos, including the Bingleys, the Bennetts, the Wickhams, the Collinses, the Gardiners and of course Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy.

While thinking about what I would match up with Mr. Darcy’s Secret for my Bookin’ and Cookin’ series, I stumbled across a wonderful resource. Created by the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, the website has many interesting bits and bobs about Jane. Here also, Janeites can find Regency recipes that Austen’s characters might have been eating, with modern remixes for modern cooks. Spinach Herb Quiche has an interesting history; it is originally a torta recipe from the Renaissance cookbook written by Platina in 1465 and then collected and republished as Cariodoc’s Miscellany by David Friedman and Elizabeth Cook.

Spinach Herb Quiche

Rating: 41

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Yield: 4 Servings

Serving Size: 1/4 of pie

A modern remix of an ancient recipe from Renaissance cookbook author, Platina, a Regency version of Spinach Herb Quiche might easily have appeared on the table at Pemberley.


  • 9" frozen unbaked pie crust
  • 3/4 lb cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 t marjoram (dry or fresh)
  • 1/2 t sage (dry or fresh)
  • 1 t fresh mint
  • 1/2 c fresh parsley, stems off
  • 1/4 c spinach
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup skim milk


Chop all herbs and spinach in food processor. Place in the pie shell.

Grate cheese or chop in food processor. Layer on top of herbs and spinach mixture in pie shell.

Beat egg whites lightly.

Mix milk and eggs together. Pour over greens and cheese mixture in pie shell.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Bake in 400 degree oven for 10 minutes; then lower heat to 350 degrees and bake for about another 40 minutes.

Let rest before cutting into wedges for serving.


While this recipe was fun to make and we enjoyed the unique taste of the herbs, you might prefer my all-time favorite from Julia Child -- Quiche au Fromage de Gruyère, Hambon et Brocoli

Source of original recipe:

Ham Salad Remix

I’ve got a lot to say about breakfast, but I’m going to start with my ham salad craving.

I’m trying to break myself of my McDonalds-for-breakfast habit, so I’ve been substituting with deli salads for my morning protein. Yes, they contain fat from mayo and other uncertain ingredients, but they have to be better for me than a sausage biscuit with cheese and a couple of hashbrowns (see breakfast items on page five).

I love ham salad. The salty meat plays off of the sweet pickles, confounded by the subtle heat from the Dijon mustard. It’s a breakfast made in heaven, so I decided to buy a piece of fresh ham from my butcher.  I made homemade ham salad using Paula Deen’s Ham Salad recipe — I left out the eggs and used sweet pickles instead of spicy dills. I also used mostly olive oil mayonnaise, and I was feeling pretty darn virtuous since the ham I bought was labeled nitrite-free.

Then I discovered the NO NITRITES HOAX. Among other supporters of nitrite-cured meats such as bacon, ham, and salami, Michael Ruhlmann has become a leading voice of the nitrite-free dissenters. A less bombastic version of the nitrites story can be found here, but the message is essentially the same, and I’ve quoted Mary Saucier Choate (food co-op dietician for the Hanover Consumer Cooperative Society in New Hampshire) rather than Ruhlmann.

Sodium nitrite is an anti-oxidant used to cure meats like ham, bacon, and hot dogs. It gives cured meats their characteristic color and flavor. Nitrite prevents spoilage, stops the growth of botulism-causing bacteria, and can help thwart harmful Listeria monocytogenes. The amount of nitrite allowed by USDA to be added to cured meats is limited to 156 parts per million. After processing, the amount of nitrite remaining in the final product is typically 10 parts per million or less.

Mention nitrates and nitrites, and the average consumer thinks of processed and cured meats. Yet, less than five percent of our daily nitrite intake actually comes from cured meats.

Approximately 80 percent of dietary nitrate comes from the naturally occurring nitrates in the vegetables and fruit we eat.

Mary Saucier Choate, M.S., R.D., L.D.
Dietitian & Food and Nutrition Educator

In other words, the salt in the nitrite-free ham slice and the fresh celery I put in the ham salad will make beautiful music together in my tummy and offer beneficial health actions. Whodathunk?

But I need to think again.

Processed meats are usually high in sodium and saturated fat. The science behind the effect on heart health of these two food components has only grown stronger. Sodium raises blood pressure, especially as we age, and saturated fat leads to elevated cholesterol levels and clogged arteries. Processed meats should be enjoyed as an occasional treat, not an everyday staple.

I’m not going to eat the ham salad every day, and I will balance it with other proteins, such as my Greek yogurt fruit smoothie. I am going to enjoy the two servings of ham salad I just made and not think too much about the nitrites, nitrates, and saturated fat in it.

Image Credit and a link to Michael Ruhlmann’s web site

And I’m going to read some of Michael Ruhlmann’s books, starting with The Making of a Chef. I’m pretty sure I’m going to find it an interesting antidote to Michael Pollan’s rightousness.




Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...