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Posts from the ‘in the kitchen’ Category

DIY Super Bowl Table

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By: Nic and Jen

The kings of football meet king cake baby in this year’s DIY Super Bowl Table. Yes… fans will be joining together in cheering on the Baltimore Ravens or the San Francisco 49ers. Lets face it… some of you are using this as an excuse to crack the spines on your New Orleans cookbooks. Kitchens everywhere will be creating wonderful dishes of jambalaya, andouille sausage bread and grilled shrimp! Here come the Hurricanes and frosty cold beer. It’s time for a beans and jeans party!

Dress up your table with these fun “party in a jar” scenes. We’ve created one for football, one for the joys of Tabasco and of course our ode to king cake baby. Justice, power and faith will reign big this weekend!

It’s the way Americans feel about their beloved football and the way we celebrate Mardi Gras season.


Palatine Illinois Farmers Market in winter!

Palatine Farmers Market goods

Palatine Farmers Market goods

By: Jen

We know the days are starting to get longer– but we really miss our CSA (community supported agriculture) deliveries of farm fresh produce from the warmer months. It gets challenging trying to choose produce in the winter as we are comparing the measly offerings to the quality of summer’s bounty. I find myself wondering how many tons of air fuel it took to bring the current produce into my local grocery store.

Nicole and her everlovin’ have let me in on their early morning jaunt to the winter Palatine Farmers Market. We were to leave no later than 7:30 am in order to purchase farm eggs. They run out! Most of the market is situated inside the Palatine Train Station which is located on the Union Pacific Northwest Rail line into Chicago. Our first stop was the Hasselmann Family Farm booth. I tried to purchase two dozen eggs but discovered that you can only buy one dozen…. it is suggested that you pre-order your eggs prior to the market delivery to ensure that you go home with these beautiful brown beauties. The yolks are very yellow and the whites hold their shape. These are the eggs from my youth, when Grandma and Grandpa would make them sunny side up after an indulgent sleep-over!

We loved the offerings from The Cheese People. Their customer line was hearty and these folks knew exactly what they wanted. Tom’s Backyard Garden and Middlebury Farms offered very fresh greens that lasted and tasted wonderful.

Palatine Farmers Market
Corner of Smith and Wood Streets
Palatine, IL 60067

January 19
February 9
March 9
April 13

If you’re up for a coffee and an early morning adventure, join us this Saturday morning! We need to leave very early…

Can you make that cranberry pie?

Be the hero this holiday season! Every time we make this recipe from our Mom, we get requests for it, literally as in “Can you make that cranberry pie?” Friends, this is so easy– you can make it too! This pie works like a charm for a winter’s breakfast, brunch or t.v. time snack. Whip some heavy whipping cream with a couple of tablespoons of bourbon for an extra treat.

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Step One is the base!
12 0z. (3 cups) whole, fresh cranberries
3/4 C. chopped walnuts
1/2 C. firmly packed brown sugar
1 T. orange rind
1 tspn. cinnamon
Toss together and pour into a greased pie plate.

Step 2 is the batter!
2 eggs
1 stick melted butter
1 C. white sugar
1/4 C. sour cream
1 tspn. vanilla
Mix together with a fork.
Gradually add 1 cup of flour.

Step 3 is the assembly!
Pour over the cranberries.
Bake in 325° for 50 minutes.

Who ever thought a small acidic red berry from an evergreen dwarf shrub could taste so good? Next week we will share our cranberry salsa recipe! What do you do with the North American berry species?

Working the Green Room with Chess Squares

Sockers FC U12B MDL Champions

Sockers FC U12B MDL Champions

By: Jen

Once again my youth sports experience has tickled my right brain thinking!

Some years ago, I met a local mom who cheerfully presented the very best scones to sleep deprived parents along the bleachers during warm-ups for our first season of tournament team baseball. These delectable treats were a lovely offering. I made a mental note as I watched the summer unfold with our sons team. This gesture brought everyone together.

The days that lead up to a sports tournament supply you with the long laundry list (literally) of items and tasks that need to be completed before our teams hit the field, pitch, court, whatever the venue. It takes a lot of effort to get to your destination and sometimes you forget to eat.

I brought Chess Squares to the “green room” during our latest Nike Classic Cup 2012 soccer tournament. It’s really the awards area for the winning teams. Your volunteer task is to shuttle dozens of teams through the awards process. The volunteering adults, our tournament director, photographer and the very enthusiastic Jeff from Ford Motor Company loved this recipe. It brought this unlikely group of personalities together and the men want the recipe! Who would think that five ingredients could bring such happiness? Our director says that every bakery in St. Louis has this bar cookie. So here it is! Simple and successful.

Chess Squares

1 box yellow cake mix
3 eggs
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, melted
4 cups powdered sugar

Preheat your oven to 300°.
Grease a 9″ x 13″ pan with butter or non-stick canola oil spray.
In a large bowl, blend the cake mix with the melted butter and one egg.
Press this dough into the bottom of the pan.

In another bowl, blend the eggs and cream cheese and carefully add the powdered sugar. When it reaches a smooth consistency, pour over the top of the crust. Bake for 40-50 minutes until the top layer is golden brown.

Bake these squares in a 9” x 13” disposable aluminum pan if you will be traveling with these. It works like a charm!

Lastly, a shout out to Jeff from Ford Motor Company who emceed our event. You really had the crowd going! I wish you safe travels and a little R & R to indulge in your culinary creations. It was great meeting everyone!

Go the Distance Playoff Cookies

By: Jen

After a long fruitful baseball season complete with team building and success, I make Playoff Cookies! I started making these for every game as my son’s team advanced in the city playoffs. I had visions of jinxes– my memory traveling back to the classic 1988 film Bull Durham. If I didn’t make the cookies would the team lose? If I didn’t bring them in the same container would they lose? The voices in my head would get me nowhere except maybe into a corn field in Iowa looking for those Chicago Black Sox players.

These are huge confections, not your typical chocolate chip cookie variety. Playoff Cookies are chewy and soft with a little bit of crunch. The mixture of quality chocolate chips along with HEATH toffee bits and butterscotch, make these a huge hit with both young and old. MLB playoffs start on October 5th for the wild card games. For a full list of dates check out the end of this post.

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Playoff Cookies

3 1/4 C. flour
1 1/2 tspn. baking soda
1 1/2 tspn. salt
2 sticks butter at room temp.

1 1/4 C. dark brown sugar
1/2 C. sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 tspn. vanilla

1 C. 60% Ghiradelli Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Chips
1 C. Nestlé Butterscotch Morsels

Preheat oven to 375°

Mix together: flour, baking soda and salt and set aside. Cream butter with both sugars until light and fluffy (2 minutes in a stand mixer). Add eggs and vanilla. Gradually add flour mixture until just incorporated. Hand stir in the bits and chips. Set dough in the fridge to firm up.

Use two cookie sheets. Use two racks in the oven. Line each sheet with parchment paper. You can skip this step if you don’t have the parchment. I use a 1/4 c. scoop. Place six scoops onto each cookie sheet with plenty of space in between. Mash the dough down so that the height of the dough is approximately 1/2” high.

Place each sheet into the oven and set your timer for 6-7 minutes. Pull sheets after this time, turn trays around and move each sheet to the opposite rack. Bake for 6-7 minutes more. You should get a large golden brown cookie! Using a large spatula move the cookies to a cooling rack. If you are using a convection oven, I suggest watching the cookies during the second round of baking as these will brown very quickly.

Playoff Cookies pack well for taking to games and picnics. The kids love the size and the parents love the taste. Better yet, make ice cream sandwiches with Edy’s Slow Churn Light Ice Cream. This ice cream has no sugar added with 1/3 fewer calories and 1/2 the fat. The mild flavor of this ice cream blends well with the more intense flavor of the cookie. I soften the ice cream a bit and then spoon it onto the bottom of the cookie in about 3/4” thickness. Place the top onto the sandwich and then run a demitasse spoon around the edges to smooth out the sides. Wrap in saran wrap and place in the freezer for an after school treat!

MLB Playoffs

October 5 Wildcard

October 6-12 American and National League Division Series

October 13-21 American League Championship Series

October 14-22 National League Championship Series

October 24-November 1 World Series

Who’s going all the way this year? Do you believe in baseball jinxes?

The finality of summer… comforted by a maple bacon muffin in Union Pier, MI

By: Jen

Our truck is packed with all the sand, bags and unopened wine known to mankind. We must say goodbye to the beach… In a desperate attempt to soothe our souls we go for one last walk with the family and our beloved mutt. Of course it couldn’t end there. Our dog was bitten in the ear by one of its kind. Nothing like a slight medical emergency to end the holiday. The silver lining to the story is that my usually very calm husband was realizing that our last day at the beach would need to be cut short, in order to care for our dog. We needed to get home.

“Well I’m stopping at that new Nani’s Café on the way out of town!” he proclaimed…

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I sat in the overpacked truck. He brought the menu out for me. Feeling so flustered I just ordered the Chicago Style Dog. He chose the BLT Dog. My brother-in-law picked The Mexican Dog. They brought me a maple bacon muffin– just for kicks. I took a bite of the muffin. I never got out of the truck so fast! Forget that our dog had my fashion scarf wrapped around her head to alleviate an injured ear. I had to get into Nani’s to talk to whomever made this most unbelievable muffin! Who made these extremely tasty hotdogs?

I met Nessa and Reyna– the proprietors of the new Nani’s Café located in Union Pier, Michigan. Their coffee was excellent. The muffin was decadent. The dogs were what dogs should be! The bun was buttered, the dog was kosher and the toppings were a new twist on familiar ingredients. Peppery fresh arugula complimented the BLT Dog! When we arrived home and after unpacking all the memories, my husband shared…

“You know, I’m still thinking about that hotdog.”
Oh yeah? I’m still thinking about that muffin!

Why not take a step back in time and go get a frosty mug of rootbeer this Labor Day weekend. That should take the edge off of this great summer coming to a close. Happy Labor Day to all!

Sporting a Pimm’s Cup for the London Olympics

A contemporary litre bottle of Pimms No1

A contemporary litre bottle of Pimms No1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By: Jen

It seems like the euro 2012 tournament just ended. Now we are eagerly anticipating the opening ceremony for the 2012 London Olympics! Summer has been flying by on the baseball fields where I witness America’s youth working out strategy of the game, building personal confidence and creating the dustiest, dirtiest set of socks to launder back home. Sports are a right of passage for our children. Whether it’s sandlot or competitive travel, you see kids discover who they are, through their physical and mental effort. I think this is why we love the Olympics.

My personal effort comes from “What shall we eat and drink this evening, as we turn Nicole’s gazebo into a London pub?” We love everything English. We love everything OLYMPICS! Nicole and I have come a long way since our frugal road trip to the Atlanta Olympics back in 1996. We survived on packages of Nutterbutter cookies, taking naps in Centennial Park with the occasional visit to The Waffle House for some breakfast. We survived the heat and ridiculous Hotlanta phenomenon of multiple streets being named “Peachtree”. The ultimate reward was seeing Andre Agassi practice on a side court at Stone Mountain!

Tonight we will serve Boddingtons Pub Ale for the men and Pimm’s Cups for the ladies. There is nothing more appealing that sitting in the Napolean House in the French Quarter in New Orleans on a rainy day, sipping a Pimm’s Cup cocktail. Back in the 1840s, this cocktail was created in London by James Pimm using his signature gin named Pimm’s No. 1. You can go super simple or more complex for this drink recipe. I’ve included two options below. Have highball glasses or pilsners ready to go.  I like to use Persian cucumbers for garnishes as they are miniature, have a nice texture and look great in a glass.

Super Easy Pimm’s Cup

Fill two glasses with ice.
Add 3 oz. Pimm’s No. 1 and 6 ounces of lemonade.
Top off with 7UP.
Garnish with cucumber spear.

If you prefer no high fructose corn syrup, try organic lemonade and replace the 7Up with IZZI Apple Sparkling Natural Soda.

Complex Pimm’s Cup

Fill two glasses with ice.
Add a sprig of mint and a sprig of thyme.
Place the following in a cocktail shaker and shake for 15 seconds:
• 3/4 cup of Pimm’s No. 1
• 1 tspn of agave nectar or 1/2 tspn of bar sugar
• 3 Tbsn. of freshly squeezed lemon juice

Shake well.
Pour into glasses.
Top off with ginger beer.
Garnish with cucumber spear.

Our appetizer samplings will include:
• Bangers and garlic fries with stone ground mustard
• Gloucester cheese with freshly sliced granny smith apples
• Green garden salad with red onion topped off with raspberry dressing
• Battered and baked halibut with homemade tarter sauce
• Curry chicken tenders

Enjoy the opening ceremony! We hear the first 15 minutes will blow your socks off!

Vegetable adirondack chairs at the farm

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By: Jen

Driving westbound out of Chicago for a couple of hours means one of two things for us– a soccer tournament or visiting the farm! Two totally different experiences yet there is a subtle connection. A healthful diet leads to a healthful body which in turn moves with ease to tackle the most challenging of sports maneuvers.

We love to visit the farm and I love to paint for Kelley Road Farms. The Vegetable Adirondack chairs were born out of love for everything sustainable at the farm. Each chair back has its own fluid mosaic patterning of nature’s bounty. The arms represent the wide open midwestern skies and the face of the chairs beckon you to explore the endless fields.

Our very good friends are the proprietors of Kelley Road Farms in Caledonia, IL. Their mission is rooted in the time honored knowledge of cooking through family life. All of their adventures incorporate their own naturally-grown produce as a signature ingredient. They grow their own vegetables without the use of chemicals or pesticides and incorporate additional local produce and organic ingredients to round out their authentic food creations. The future is very bright for Tom and Drew as they continue to build their facility, research and develop their product line and bring their vision into the marketplace.

Pull out your adirondacks and enjoy the calm and peaceful days of summer!

June Vegetable Garden

As promised in the Vegetable Garden Box DIY post last month, I have new photos to show you of the progress in the garden so far. A couple of un-seasonal hot days gave all the plants a jolt and the cool nights have been rewarding to the tender lettuces. Everything is coming along nicely except for some pesky beetle that has been creating havoc on our eggplants. We even cheated and prematurely picked some baby zucchinis that we toasted up on the grill. Delish!

Did you plant a vegetable garden this year? Have you harvested any veggies yet?

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Fruit Squares Make an Easy Memorial Day Dessert

By Nicole:

Its just about that time of year, the un-official start the summer season– Memorial Day Weekend.

A federal holiday in the States, Memorial Day was created to honor and pay tribute to the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Families and friends gather to celebrate and remember those who fought for our country and for our freedom. Parades and picnics dot the Americana landscape, complete with red, white and blue.

If you are looking for an easy, light, fruit filled dessert, I have just what you may be looking for. This recipe was given to me by my dear friend Dee Dee at my bridal shower some 12 years ago. Just like our friendship, this recipe has been tried and true, always a winner!

Holiday Fruit Squares

Holiday Fruit Squares – Makes 30 squares

1 C. Unsalted Butter

1 1/2 C. Sugar

4 Eggs

1 Tbsp. Fresh Lemon Juice

2 C. Flour

1 12oz can Cherry Cake & Pastry Filling

1 12oz can Blueberry Cake & Pastry Filling

Pre-heat oven 350°

Grease 15 x 10 cookie sheet/jelly roll pan

With your handheld mixer, cream together butter and sugar in medium size bowl.

Add eggs and lemon juice, mix well until light and creamy.

Add one cup of the flour, mix well. When the first cup of flour is incorporated, add the second cup of flour until incorporated.

Pour dough mixture into pan, spread evenly around the pan.

Score the dough into 30 squares – 5 high x 6 wide.

Dollop 1 heaping teaspoon of fruit filling onto the center of each square.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until lightly browned. Allow to cool for 5 minutes then sift confectioners sugar over pan of fruit bars. When completely cool, slice bars and serve.

Wishing you all a relaxing holiday weekend. How will you be spending the opening weekend to summer? We know we will be thanking veterans dear to our hearts, both near and far. Land of the free, home of the brave.

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