July 22, 2010

Morton Grove Farmer's Market

It's no the Green City Market, but there's plenty of nearby parking.

Check out this video featuring vendors and producers at the Morton Grove Farmer's Market, the North Shore's newest market. Video courtesy of our friends at Spatulatta. https://youtu.be/FJWKMm5JVjM

June 22, 2010

Moto Restaurant with My Mom

As I mentioned, I recently enjoyed a fantastical dinner at Moto restaurant with my mom, courtesy of chef and mastermind of molecular gastronomy, Homaro Cantu.
When our 10s, or ten course meal, began with the words, "You may now eat your menu," it was clear we were in for an unusual evening. Had we been more strategic, we would have eaten a large breakfast and then nibbled lightly, very lightly during the day in order to prepare our bodies for this marathon of meals, ten courses at Moto.

Each staff person we encountered at Moto was either a culinary student or graduate of such a school. Take for instance, the dapper Trevor Hamblin, who gave us thorough descriptions of each course (twice), each drink, patiently answered our many questions and chatted more amicably with my mother than I did (kidding!).

After noshing on our menus, we were eager for the first course: chicaqua ("shee-cah-gwa") onions, the city's namesake. Cute, tiny, pink onions with a bulb the size of my 10 year-old son’s pinky nail served with flat bread. Delightful.
It could take as long to blog this meal as it did to eat eat--2.5 hours(!), so I'll share highlights.

The chef works with trained sommeliers to come up with pleasing combinations. The most interesting pairing was this German rauche bier or smoked beer. Mmm. tastes like bacon...and beer. Interesting.

The "Reuben lasagna," looked like the latter, but tasted like the former. Consisting of brisket, Swiss cheese, and sauerkraut, the sandwich, I mean lasagna, smelled like a childhood memory, but I'm not sure which one. Trying to place that elusive scent, I kept sniffing, deeply inhaling to no avail, but fortunately did not draw attention from curious onlookers.
The Cuban pork sandwich was a definite win and the presentation was brilliant.
The cigar-sandwich consisted of braised pork confit and (something else), mixed with in house pickles and white bread, deep friend, wrapped in braised collard greens then in smoked red pepper puree sitting atop a bed of ash made of black and white sesame seed ground with Cuban spices. The presentation is wonderful. It was a bit salty, but overall crisp, chewy, and satisfying.

Bubble Tea?No, watermelon soup! This got points for originality, but then again so did every other course of the evening. Dig if you will this picture, watermelon consomme with ginger and lemon, “scallop sous vide in lemon oil” with citrus peel for flavor and a bit of mint. The broth itself was intriguing, but the fish combo didn't work for my Mom or me. For what it's worth, I'm not a huge fan of Bubble Tea, either.

How about rabbit maki risotto? Looks like sushi, but it's not. This mouthful was made with rabbit loin and brussels sprouts wrapped in mushroom paper and rolled in rice, as well as sesame and poppy seeds. It was served with aoli with allspice, and daikon marinated in beet juice instead of ginger and freeze dies peas instead of wasabi. Tasty as long I could keep thoughts of cute little bunnies out of my head.

Remember our patient waiter? He must have thought I was hard of hearing I asked him to describe this next dish over and over again. Broccoli rabe and pork belly braised in stock that starts with caramel and is flavored with lemon grass, chili and like five other things that boil down into the glaze.

The dish was too complicated for me to transcribe (did I mention the many glasses of wine?) no matter how many times Trevor repeated it. Mushroom stems pureed blah blah and made into what sounds like a meringue version of the original mushroom. WTH? But, oh, look how lovely!
Delicious course; I especially like the sweet and delicious glaze that had just a hint of spice.

Not quite, but close to dessert, we enjoyed this classic Italian dessert morphed into a savory Mexican one.

The actual dessert courses included Pad Thai-esque, featuring sorbet "pad thai," mango cream, vanilla rice pudding, coconut sorbet and lime slice made out of thai basil, cilantro and lime juice Mom told me she'll never look at pad thai the same way.


We ended the meal, which felt like more of an event, really, with a root beer float Moto-style. That is, a beaker of locally brewed root beer topped with a vanilla infused packing peanut dipped in liquid nitrogen, for a magical effect.


Our dinner at Moto was an unforgettable mother-daughter experience, but heck, dining partners aside, a dinner at Moto is just plain memorable.

Click here for more Moto photos from the launch party of their Planet Green Show, Future Food.

March 22, 2010

Food for April Fools Day

There's always room for foodie fun on April Fools Day!

One year, I took salad plates and covered them in vanilla yogurt and topped each one with a half of a bright yellow-orange canned peach and told the boys I was serving up giant eggs. They totally fell for the surprise, much to my delight--and theirs.

Another time, we made faux sushi with Froot by the Foot to substitute for the nori (seaweed wrapper) and coconut flakes instead of rice. We didn't fool anyone, but we did have a lot of fun making it.

Last year, my boys created a lot of fun/disgusting treats with the Spatulatta girls. Click through to the videos to learn how to make a Moldy Sandwich and Kitty Litter Cake, among other delights. Did I say delights? Ewwww!

And I just received a fun new suggestion for April Fools Day "Bacon and Eggs" from the folks at Family Fun magazine

For the eggs:
• 3 tablespoons white chocolate chips
• 12 yellow M&MS

For the bacon:
• 1 square caramel
• 1 Tootsie Roll Midgee

Instructions
1. For the eggs: Melt the white chocolate chips according to the package directions. Transfer the melted chocolate to a ziplock bag and snip off a corner.
2. Squeeze nickel-size portions of the chocolate onto a sheet of waxed paper, then gently press a yellow M&M, letter side down, into the center of each. Let the candies cool. Makes 12 eggs.
3. For the bacon: Remove the wrapping from a square caramel and a Tootsie Roll Midgee. Microwave the candies for 4 seconds to make them soft. Use your thumb and forefinger to slightly flatten each candy piece, then press them together.
4. Halve the candy, then stack and press the pieces into alternating layers.
5. Slice a 1/4-inch-wide piece from the stack. Pinch and stretch the piece lengthwise into a flat bacon strip, then cut it in half. Add ripples to each half by gently bending the edges. Makes 3 strips (6 pieces).

Check out Family Fun for more cute and harmless April Fools tips and treats.

I did not receive any compensation for this piece. I'm just sharing it for the fun of it.

October 27, 2009

Pampered Chef's New Cookie Press

The attendees at last week's Pampered Chef event were given a cookie press to take home and try out. Always up for an excuse to bake cookies, I put it to the test the day after I received it. Watch as my son demonstrates the press.

I followed the Pampered Chef's spritz cookie recipe, but I think my butter was not softened enough and as a result I mixed the batter more than I should have. This resulted in a dough that was a bit stickier than we used at the Pampered Chef demo, and as you can see, there is a bit of a learning curve.

Everyone who ate one of the cookies raved about the taste. They were delicious.  https://youtu.be/QvVGvlVoPP0

October 23, 2009

My Afternoon at Pampered Chef

I spent yesterday afternoon with a wonderful group of bloggers at The Pampered Chef's headquarters in Addison, Illinois. It was like going to a Pampered Chef party, or cooking show as they call them, only I didn't need to open my wallet. This was not a recruitment event; they focused on the products, the company, and the food and it was all very interesting.

We met with various representatives of the company and learned about the recipe development process, all while sipping a delicious cranberry fizz and nibbling delectable butter cookies.

Pampered Chef's recipe developers love their jobs. Truly, they get to follow their passions and foodie dreams with the added bonus of keeping typical office hours, something that's nearly impossible to do in many restaurant and hospitality jobs.

Office hours aside, even the developers are PC consultants and are required to host cooking shows a few times a year. This keeps them in touch with their network of consultants and makes them more aware of what they are asking those consultants to do when they host shows.

The Pampered Chef folks are especially proud of their redesigned cookie press, which (and this jazzes me perhaps more than it should) is also a potato ricer. It can also be used make crackers, too, which is something I'm excited to try. (Sounds very gourmet, no?)

In addition to the aforementioned cookies, as you will see in the photos below, we made and devoured honey-apple brie bites (yum!) and turkey tetrazzini (not quite my thing).

Our gracious hosts allowed us to create a wish list of Pampered Chef products we'd like to try. Though, indeed, I can look longingly through the PC catalog, we're in such a state of paring down that I only requested a few simple ones that I know will I will use like bamboo salad tongs and as cheese grater that I think the boys will like to use.

They gave us a few goodies for the road, as well--including said cookie press. I already have a cookie date night set with my boys.
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October 03, 2009

Ninja Master Blender and Starbucks VIA: A Video Review and Giveaway

When I received samples of Starbucks VIA and my Ninja Master Blender (turn down your sound before click) for review in the same week, I was inspired to try them out together in one tasty review.

Watch as I mix up a fancypants homemade coffee drink in my Ninja.  https://youtu.be/NZljZZFlKJk (

I enjoyed my iced mocha-like drink and the Ninja cleanup was simple.

I'm not one for drinking coffee straight, that is without a bit of mocha and topped with whipped cream, but I brought a few samples of VIA home from BlogHer09 courtesy of SoCal Vacation Gal Jennifer Miner, anyway. I gave them to my mom and she's now a huge fan of it. Gosh, I feel kind of like a drug dealer. The woman is now hooked.

Don't tell mom, but now I've got a few extra VIA samples to share with you along with a coupon for a can of Reddi-Wip whipped cream, so you can make your own fru-fru coffee drink.

US residents only, leave a comment by Sunday, October 12 at 1:00 PM CST . For extra entries, tweet or blog about the contest and come back to let me know in a new comment. Winner will be chosen at random.

Edited to add: After making the coffee drinks, my crew couldn't wait to try making other items with the Ninja Blender, so we followed up with guacamole and deliciously smooth mashed potatoes. The blender is a hit and I can tell we're going to be putting it to the test over the coming weeks.

September 09, 2009

Pirate Booty: My Boys are Hooked

I planned to share a treasure chest full of Pirate Booty products that the company sent me with a group of tween boys. As I imagined it, we'd do a an organized, if not sophisticated, tasting, working our way through the product line.

What was I thinking? They snarfed up the snacks right away; they practically inhaled one bag as I turned my back to open the next. I was tempted to serve up a bowl of packing peanuts topped with garlic salt just to make sure they were paying attention.

I managed to take a few quick notes during this process, though.

Veggie Booty was an old hit in our house. It was a favorite snack when my boys were toddlers during the early days of this millennium. It turns out the product isn't quite as healthy as it claimed to be back in the day, but labeling adjustments have been made. Because I had a bit of proverbial egg on my face for having been a vocal word-of-mouth promoter of the unbelievably healthy snack I wasn't a paid advocate-after all this was in the days before momblogs- but all my friends served Booty to their kids; I had talked it up as an amazing way to get some veggies and fiber into their little bodies.

Sooo, I guess I'm more unresolved about that then I realized.

Anyway, after the salmonella scare had cleared (in early 2007) we returned to the brand because damn it, my kids love the stuff.

I thought we'd sampled all of their product line- puffy rice snacks and crunchy corn creations- until I received the pack.

Sea salt and vinegar? (
"Delicious, but a bit sour, but not as strong as most chips. Goes well with the puffiness," according to my boys.)

Barbeque? ("So good! Yum!")

Onion? ("So good! Tastes like onion rings, but smells like blah.")

Who knew about all these newfangled flavors?

The Tings are crispy, like a certain "rhymes with feetos" snack, but come without the seemingly toxic bright orange gunk. In fact they are just naked, crispy goodness. Tings are way better than "feetos" to serve to a basement full of videogaming boys. And by better, I mean
less damaging to the house and Wii remotes.

That said, I take issue with the "nutritious" on the front of the bag. To me nutritious suggests a food loaded with vitamins and fiber (think, a tangerine). I mean, you could do worse than Tings or Booty puffs for a snack and I like my boys to enjoy a "chippy" starch in their lunches or as part of an after school snack, so I do buy these for my family, but let's not pretend they're nutritious.

Overall, the new flavors were a hit with the kids. With a little more truth in labelling (especially considering their--our-- history), they'll be a hit with mom, too.

Oh, and based on experience, the Booty products go stale quickly; you'll want to finish the bag within a day or two---fortunately this is rarely a problem in our house. If you're serving them at a party it's best to wait until the last minute to empty them into a serving bowl.

Photo: the Pirate Booty folks send me samples in an adorable treasure chest. Pressed for a last-minute birthday gift for a boy, I hacked the chest into a birthday present by tossing in a bunch of coins and bandanna. Argh, matey; it was a hit.

Kim Moldofsky who muses on parenting gifted children and life at Hormone-colored Days and writes about marketing to mom bloggers at Positive Impact, Inc.

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