A quick weeknight dinner using leftover rice.

We Made A lot of Pie. . .dough

When I was scheduled for “pie production” I really didn’t know exactly what I was going to be doing.  All I knew is that it was going to be a long day because I started at 8:00 a.m. and was scheduled to 5:00 p.m.  Did I mention this was at the Lincoln Square location, which meant I would be driving exactly during rush hour.  Let’s just say it took me two hours to drive to work – I need to do a dry run to take public transportation to Lincoln Square, which would require me taking the Metra from Cary to Chicago, then switching to the Brown Line for 15 stops before exiting a block away from work.  The price I pay for living a country life and working in the city! 

But it’s totally worth it.  I was telling my Mom the other day that I can hear Tony’s voice telling me how stupid it is working 40 miles away from where I live, but I keep having to tell him to be quiet, that I’ve got this and everything will be okay.

I ate an English muffin with peanut butter and a banana in the car ride to work.  I was 15 minutes late, and didn’t realize that the owner of the company was going to be there all day – you all know how I hate being late!  It ended up being fine.  After the owner gave us a quick tutorial on how she makes her pie crust we were off to the races.  We were a team of 5 including the owner and we were like an assembly line of two teams.  The owner chopped up the butter and shortening and would portion out exactly how much was needed for each pie crust (top and bottom) 6 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of shortening if you were wondering.  They were frozen so they would stay cold.  Then one of us would portion out the dry ingredients, and another person manned the robot coupe to process the dry ingredients with the fat, then add in the ice cold water, while another person wrapped up the individual crusts in plastic wrap.

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This was supposed to be a two day production of making 500 pie crusts for Apple Fest this weekend.   250 pie crusts yesterday and 250 pie crusts today.  But we had such a rhythm going, that we managed to make all 504 pie crusts from 8:40 a.m. until 4:40 p.m.  We only took a 30 minute break for lunch, which was chicken tacos.  I had one chicken taco and a Diet Coke.

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Um, turns out making pie dough is a bit messy, but my station was the messiest!

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It actually went by super fast.  We listened to music, shared food stories.  It was a lot of fun even if the task was repetitious.   And yes, I was toggling between Diet Coke and coffee.

By the time we cleaned up and I was heading home, it was 5:30 and I thought for sure I’d run into rush hour traffic, but outbound traffic wasn’t bad at all and made it home in just over an hour.  I really didn’t eat much during the day so I was hungry, and literally wanted to stop at every fast food place I saw, but I knew I had stuff to make a quick fried rice, and that’s what I made for dinner.

Beef and Veggie Fried Rice
Serves 1
A super quick dinner using leftover cooked rice. You'll be ready to eat in about 5 minutes!
Write a review
Prep Time
1 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
6 min
Prep Time
1 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
6 min
537 calories
62 g
257 g
15 g
35 g
5 g
446 g
601 g
4 g
0 g
9 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
Amount Per Serving
Calories 537
Calories from Fat 136
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 15g
Saturated Fat 5g
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2g
Monounsaturated Fat 7g
Cholesterol 257mg
Sodium 601mg
Total Carbohydrates 62g
Dietary Fiber 3g
Sugars 4g
Protein 35g
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
  1. 3 ounces lean sirloin steak, chopped
  2. 1 cup cooked white rice
  3. 1/2 cup broccoli, chopped
  4. 1/2 cup carrots
  5. 1 tablespoon pot sticker sauce
  6. 1 teaspoon hot mustard
  7. 1 tablespoon sriracha
  8. 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
  9. 1 large egg, cooked and chopped
  1. In a skillet, heat to medium temperature and cook one large egg, just until the yolk isn’t runny.  Set aside and let cool.  Heat pan up to medium high heat.  Spray with Pam and add in your bite size chopped steak to the pan and cook for about a minute and a half.  Set aside with the egg.  Add in the broccoli and carrots and cook for about 2 minutes – you still want them to be crisp tender.  While the veggies are cooking, mix the pot sticker sauce, hot mustard, sriracha and rice wine vinegar together.  Add the chopped egg and steak in with the veggies.  Add the leftover cooked rice, stir to combine.  Pour in the sauce and cook for 1 minute.  Garnish with sesame seeds.  The sauce is 20 calories, so barely a point, but I am counting it as 1 smart point.
My Bizzy Kitchen http://www.mybizzykitchen.com/
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This was hearty, delicious and super quick to put together.  And turns out much healthier than fast food!

I am excited about work tonight at The Chopping Block.  There is going to be a meet and greet with JeanMarie Brownson, who is a local Chef and Writer from the Chicago Tribune.   She will be demonstrating her prosciutto parmesan puffs to start the evening.  Then you’ll dine family style on a roasted beet, radicchio and walnut salad; Chicken Osso Bucco; Crispy Baguette with Herbed Cheese Spread; finished with a Latte Brownie and ice cream while you hear JeanMarie talk about her passion for food and life.  The $85 price tag includes a copy of her cookbook “Dinner at Home.”  Only 3 seats are left!  And I am happy that my schedule allows me to take public transportation, so I can watch youtube videos on my way to work. Open-mouthed smile

It’s a chilly morning, which I love.  Right now I am wrapped up in a snowman throw, with my hot cup of coffee and all the windows open.   And it’s 54 degrees – love!   I love this time of year.

Hope you have an awesome day!

The Chopping Block

Corn and Chive Pudding

One of the things I love about my new job is that I am trying new foods that I otherwise might have thought I hated.  When I first read the recipe for the corn and chive pudding before my cooking class last Friday night, I wasn’t sure I was going to like it.  First, it had chives in it, and you all know my aversion of any type of onion.  And the second thing I was leery of was the texture.  I thought it would taste like baby food.

Boy was I wrong!  When I make this at home (and I will!) I would add some chopped jalapenos for a bit of heat, but this is a winning side dish.  Hopefully you’ll still be able to find fresh corn in your neck of the woods for a few more weeks to give this a try.  Otherwise I would substitute white shoepeg canned corn for this recipe.   This recipe (and more!) can be found on The Chopping Block’s website here.   I am also making this recipe 10 servings of a heaping 1/2 cup.   It’s really rich!

Corn and Chive Pudding
Serves 10
Write a review
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
45 min
Total Time
15 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
45 min
Total Time
15 min
292 calories
23 g
132 g
20 g
9 g
12 g
147 g
134 g
7 g
0 g
7 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
Amount Per Serving
Calories 292
Calories from Fat 175
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 20g
Saturated Fat 12g
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 6g
Cholesterol 132mg
Sodium 134mg
Total Carbohydrates 23g
Dietary Fiber 2g
Sugars 7g
Protein 9g
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
  1. 4 cups fresh corn kernels (from about 4 ears of corn)
  2. 4 eggs
  3. 1 cup heavy cream
  4. 1/2 cup milk
  5. 5 cloves garlic, roasted
  6. 3 tablespoons sugar
  7. 1/2 stick butter, melted
  8. 2 tablespoons flour
  9. 2 teaspoons baking powder
  10. salt and pepper to taste
  11. 2 tablespoons chives
  12. 1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
  1. Heat oven to 350.   Butter a baking dish and set aside.  Place 3 cups of the corn, eggs, cream, milk, roasted garlic, sugar, butter, flour and baking powder in the food processor.  Blend until almost smooth.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Mix in the reserved 1 cup of corn, chives, cheddar cheese and pour into the buttered baking dish.  Bake on a parchment lined sheet tray until the center is set and the top is golden brown, about 45 minutes.  Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving.
  2. Note on the roasted garlic:  To roast garlic, slice the top off of whole head of garlic to expose the cloves.  Place in a small ovenproof dish, drizzle with olive oil and cover with foil.  Bake at 350 for 40-50 minutes.  Alternatively, most grocery stores now have an olive bar, and you can buy roasted garlic already prepared.
My Bizzy Kitchen http://www.mybizzykitchen.com/
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If you were to come to one of our cooking classes, that’s what your “mis en place” would look like that I prepare for you ahead of time.  It has all your ingredients you would need for a recipe.  We left the cheese whole for the guests to grate, and had them guests shuck and use that corn zipper to get the corn off of the cob.  And did I mention you get 15% off of almost anything in the retail store if you attend and event or cooking class?!

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Because we provide you with everything you need to make all the ingredients, we provide to go containers because you’ve essentially paid for all of the food with the cost of the class.  It’s surprising how many people have no interest in taking home the leftovers!  It was lucky for me, because on Saturday morning I made a corn and chive pudding savory breakfast pancake.  All I did was take 3/4 cup of the pudding and added in a couple tablespoons of flour – it made the pancake 9 smart points, but the egg white scramble was only 1 point, so this whole plate of food was only 10 smart points.  Salty, sweet and savory – best combo evah!  I will see if I can tweak this recipe a bit to get it a bit healthier – maybe subbing in mostly almond milk and reducing the heavy cream. 

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My sister and I finally got to celebrate my Mom’s birthday today.  Since my sister works downtown, it only made sense to find a place to eat near her office.  When she first recommended taking my Mom there I thought “there is no way Mom would go for that” because it’s a lot of spicy food – and Momma doesn’t like spicy food.  But she took a look at the menu at Heaven on Seven and saw some dishes that weren’t spicy, so that’s where we decided to go.

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Yep, this is what the restaurant looks like 365 days a week.  Did I mention that they have a lot of hot sauce?  Over 2,000 on the walls and tables!

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And why have I never heard of sweet and spicy Tabasco?!  It was delicious.

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I had pretty much decided what I was going to get before we got there.  I’ve had a jones for fried chicken and when I saw they had a Nashville Hot Chicken dish, I was sold.  And thanks to my friend Dana for scoping out the menu and mentioning fried green tomatoes, we got those to start with.  And my picky sister ate one!  Corn meal batter and a warm remoulade.

9.26.16we 081 So many awesome things to choose from!

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I like how they have to word “beef debris.”  I meant to ask our server Carrie (great server by the way!) what that meant, but forgot.   Each meal starts out with a cup of their signature gumbo.  Holy balls – this picture does this absolutely no justice, because it was SO FLAVORFUL I could have eaten a whole pot of it.  That’s one dish I want to attempt at home this fall and winter.

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My sister got Italian breaded steak sandwich, my Mom got the New Orleans BBQ shrimp over cheesy grits, and I got the Nashville Hot Brown chicken. 

PicMonkey Collage

Everything was delicious.  My sisters sandwich was humungous – seriously 4 servings of beef in that sammie.  My Mom’s N.O. shrimp had such a depth of flavor, and well, how wrong can a perfectly cooked piece of spicy fried chicken be?!  I actually only ate a few bites of my chicken because I was so full from the fried tomatoes and gumbo.  Please note that if you are in Chicago and decide to hit up Heaven on Seven – cash only.  No debit or credit cards are accepted.

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It was a fun day off.   Always nice spending time with my Momma and sister.   Now I am up bright and early to get to work to make apple pie all day!  Be sure to check out my Instagram posts later today. 

Make it a great day!

Happy Monday!

OMG, the sleeping weather last night was amazing!!  So amazing I slept in until 9:45 this morning.  And I am scooping up my Mom and have to leave soon to have her birthday lunch in Chicago with my sister at Heaven on Seven.

I haven’t been to Heaven on Seven in years.  Back in the day I used to walk a mile from my office to their restaurant, and would only buy a single square of jalapeno corn bread which is life changing.  I’ll be doing a recap and a blog post later tonight.  I won’t be blogging tomorrow because I have to be at work at 8 a.m. to make apple pies all day for Apple Fest this weekend.

But for those of you who drink your coffee while reading my blog as your routine, didn’t want you to think I was dead in a ditch somewhere. Open-mouthed smile

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If you were going to Heaven on Seven, what would you order?  I am on the fence of what I should order. Open-mouthed smile

Happy Birthday Momma!

It’s so crazy that with 365 days in the year, I have three family birthdays three days in a row!  Today my Mom turns 76 years young.  I started putting a collage together of all the pictures of just me and my Mom, but there were so many the pictures would be so tiny that I decided to just share a few.   Just proving that I am Mom’s favorite again and again.  I am sorry I have to work today and you are busy at the food pantry, but we’ll have fun on Monday!

PicMonkey Collage

It’s hard to believe though that the picture of her holding my twin sister and I? She’s 28 years old in that picture, and I am not 20 years older than she was in the picture!  Where is the time going??!!

Thanks for all your virtual hugs yesterday on Tony’s birthday.  I had planned on calling my parents in law on the way to work, but my bluetooth wasn’t working in the car and then I got busy right away when I got to work.  I texted them and my MIL said that somehow this year was more difficult without him than last year, and I agreed with her.  I cried, then I’d feel okay, then I felt like driving to Dunkin Donuts and eating a dozen donuts by myself.

Instead, I went on a 45 minute walk.  It was over cast, gloomy, but warm.

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I got back and made a bagel sandwich.  My grocery store sells an everything bagel that is only 6 points and 210 calories.  It’s on the small side, but it takes care of the bagel jones I get every once in a while. 

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I was glad it was a work day so I could get my mind off of Tony.  I quickly threw lunch together – I simply added chicken stock to my vodka sauce and made a quick version on lasagna soup and ate that before my shift started.

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It was a private party of only five people, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I thought maybe the head chef would prepare all the dishes and I would be on the sidelines, but I took three people, she took two and we split the recipes up.  My two recipes were the roasted potato and fennel potato salad with a Dijon vinaigrette and slivered almonds, and the arugula, avocado, jicama and orange segment salad with pistachio’s and a pistachio vinaigrette.  The Chef made an artichoke and goat cheese focaccia bread, which I seriously cannot wait to make at home, baked chicken that was stuffed with a rosemary butter compound butter and drizzled with a fig balsamic glaze, and cheesecake with a vanilla paste whipped cream.

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Um, turns out there is a book at Merchandise Mart with all the appetizer recipes with instructions.  Either I missed that during one point of my training, or they just forgot to tell me, but it’s nice to know.  I’d already seen the two appetizers so I knew how to prepare them – I also need to make that grilled pesto pizza with heirloom tomatoes and got cheese with fresh basil.  Swoon!

As always, work went by in a flash.  I decided to switch it up and listen to podcasts coming home.  I listened to old podcasts from A Couple Cooks from last fall.  I hadn’t heard of their blog and I must be behind the times, because they have about 52k followers on Instagram!  All I know is that I listened to two podcasts and I was pulling in the driveway.  Nice!

I had 14 points left for dinner, and getting home at 11 p.m. this was about as fancy as I was going to get.  Oh, and I love the dog hair on the table Open-mouthed smile

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Leftover taco meat, chips and wine.  And of course the barely seen bottle of Cholula hot sauce on the side.

It’s another work day for me – yeah!  When have I ever been so excited to go to work?  Well, the answer to that is probably never!  Tonight is a Hands on Class – Wine and Dine.  They are making roasted fig, arugula and goat cheese salad, roasted pork loin with a bacon blueberry compote, corn and chive pudding and an apple pear crisp.  Sounds like an awesome menu to me!

And my first blog post was published today on The Chopping Block’s website.  My ode to Deep Dish Pizza!  You can check it out here – I’d love for you guys to comment on that post. 

I hope you have a wonderful weekend.  I am still waiting for fall temperatures which won’t happen until next week.  High of 68 and lows of 49 – perfect weather for me!

Make it a great day!

vodka sauce with mini meatballs

Happy Birthday Tony!

Oh how I wish he was here.  While he didn’t ever want to make a big deal out of his birthday, that just wasn’t an option when you are married to me.  I’d think long and hard on the menu, the gifts, etc.  When I think back to his last birthday, I obviously didn’t know at the time that it would be his last.  I’ve just recently started to read my old blog posts from that summer of 2014 when we were back and forth to Mayo Clinic.  What I can’t believe is that even though he hadn’t had an appetite for the longest time, and even the smell of cooked food sometimes turned him off, I somehow decided it would be a good idea to make him lamb chops because they were his favorite.  I think he maybe ate two bites of one chop, and was apologetic about not eating more.  And as I was clearing the dishes and cleaning the kitchen, I remember hearing him snore because he fell asleep at 7:00 p.m. like his did. 


Maybe next year will be easier to sit outside without the constant reminder that he isn’t sitting across from me with his cigar and Grey Goose on the rocks.  Yesterday when I was trying to decide what to make for dinner that all three of us would eat, Jacob said that he loved a vodka tomato sauce.  Suddenly the idea for pasta and meatballs was on the menu and as I was going to the grocery store to pick up a small bottle of vodka for the sauce, I realized I hadn’t bought vodka at all since the summer of 2014.   I am not sure Tony would have approved of my $8.99 choice though!

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This is my version of a vodka sauce with meatballs.  I love buying what my store calls “chili meat” which is just a thick ground chuck of 85/15. 

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Vodka Sauce with Mini Meatballs
Serves 8
I love having mini meatballs because it feels like you are eating more than you really are. Each meatball comes in at 1 smart point.
Write a review
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
35 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
35 min
270 calories
12 g
69 g
12 g
13 g
5 g
171 g
684 g
2 g
0 g
6 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
Amount Per Serving
Calories 270
Calories from Fat 103
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 12g
Saturated Fat 5g
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 5g
Cholesterol 69mg
Sodium 684mg
Total Carbohydrates 12g
Dietary Fiber 1g
Sugars 2g
Protein 13g
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
  1. 1 teaspoon olive oil
  2. 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  3. 1 cup vodka
  4. 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  5. 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  6. 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  7. 1/4 cup heavy cream
  8. pinch of salt and pepper
  9. 1 pound ground chuck
  10. 2 ounces of chopped stale Italian bread
  11. 1/4 cup 1% milk
  12. 1 egg
  13. 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  14. 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  15. 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  16. 1 teaspoon salt
  17. 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  18. 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  1. In a stock pot, heat the olive oil and add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes.  Add in the vodka, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the vodka has been reduced by half.  Add in the Italian seasoning, crushed tomatoes, crushed red peppers, salt pepper and simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the heavy cream.  Taste for additional salt.
  2. In a large bowl, put the stale bread and the milk together and mix until the milk is absorbed into the bread.  This is called a panade and keeps your meatballs tender while cooking.  Add in the ground chuck, 1 egg, bread crumbs, Italian seasoning, garlic salt, salt, pepper and dried parsley and mix just until combined, careful not to over mix the meat mixture.  I got 45 meatballs about the size of a marble out of this recipe – each meatball comes in at 1 smart point each.
  3. Heat a skillet with Pam – there is enough fat in the meat that you don’t need to add any additional fat to the pan.  Cook over medium high heat so that there is a nice crust on the outside of the meatball, but not yet fully cooked.  Throw the meatballs into your sauce and put the pan back on a low simmer to let the meatballs cook through, about 10 minutes.
My Bizzy Kitchen http://www.mybizzykitchen.com/
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I ate 6 meatballs for 6 smart points, 1 point for the sauce and 5 points for the cooked pasta for a filling 12 point dinner.   I may be having a mini meatball sandwich for lunch today.

My goal for the day is not to binge eat just because I am feeling sad that Tony isn’t here on his birthday.  Luckily today is a workday – a private party for just 5 people which should be interesting because I haven’t worked a small party like that before.  And I love the chef I am working with and know I can learn a lot from her.  It’s a California Wine Country Menu today:  artichoke focaccia; arugula, avocado and orange salad with a pistachio vinaigrette; roasted chicken with fig balsamic glaze; fennel and new potato salad with whole grain mustard and lemon cheesecake with whipped cream.  Doesn’t that sound delicious?!

So my only request today is to give your spouse or significant other an extra hug and a kiss today.  Hugs!

Happy Birthday Joe!


I wish the quality of this picture was better, but this is the image I have of you Joe when we first met.  Long time readers will remember that this picture was taken a mere three weeks after Tony and I met and it was at my law firms company picnic.  We basically moved in together a week after that photo was taken, got married five months after that and never looked back.  Joe, I know you know this, but your Dad was your number 1 fan.  We both know he would never earn father of the year.  Turns out going to parent teacher conferences and all the “parenty” stuff wasn’t in his DNA, but he loved all the time he could spend with you – even if that meant sitting and watching t.v. when I am sure when you were younger you’d rather play outside.   I loved all the football Sunday’s you guys spent together, and me trying to figure out what football snacks to make.  And know if he were here, he would have called you and told you how much he loves you.  I love you!  Hope your 27th is fun – I know it will because you guys are going to the Kayne West concert tonight.


It wasn’t surprising after eating so much at Cooking Club the night before, I was not remotely hungry when I woke up.  It wasn’t until I was running errands that I realized okay – now I am hungry!  I stopped by the local beef stand on my way home.  I knew I was going to get a grilled chicken sandwich, Hannah was getting a hot dog and we going to split a small fry.  As I was standing in line to order, I quickly pulled out my WW app, just to see what the points would be for a gyros, because it smelled so fricken good!  Um, that would be 25 points, so with my half a small fry my lunch could have been 29 points, or basically my whole day allotment of points.  I stuck with my sandwich and 1.5 ounces of fries for a 14 point lunch.  Much better!

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I was working a private party yesterday with two chef’s, and a chef instructor.  One of the chef’s was leading a party for the first time, and the chef instructor was there to make sure everything went smoothly and to continue to train him and myself as well.  It was a very different perspective being trained by a chef instructor vs. another class assistant.  I learned so much.  We have a pre-meeting that divvies up the work.  I was assigned the three appetizers.  Nice!

Except there were no instructions for the appetizers.

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The pre-shift sheet said:  appetizers:  bacon wrapped dates/bay scallops with spicy Thai sauce/hummus with toasted pita chips.  There was no instruction at all – such as how long to cook the bacon wrapped dates, how to plate it, no mention of tossing the pitas in olive oil and seasonings prior to baking, and no mention of toasting coconut or chopping scallions as garnishes.  And what if I had never cooked a scallop before?  I ended up learning hot to make the signature popcorn from the owner and the chef instructor took over on the scallop dish, which I am glad she did.  I never knew you are only supposed to cook a scallop on one side until it’s got a nice sear on it – once you take it off the heat it will continue to cook.  I plan on bringing that up to my GM.  I think there should be an visual appetizer book that gives a class assistant clear instructions on how to prepare the dishes – something like this:

PicMonkey Collage

The highlight of my night though, was that my cousin Sue was in town and working at an event at the Merchandise Mart and she stopped by to say hello!  She is a loyal blog reader, and one of the first things she said to me was “you look so happy!”  I truly have found the job of my dreams and am so excited to learn and see where this takes me.  Love you Sue!

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I had a few bites of coconut gelato and a couple handfuls of popcorn, so when I got home last night I was hungry.  Did you know it was National Pepperoni Pizza Day?  I made it just under the wire and ate this 10 point pizza bagel at 11:55 p.m.

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I have the day off today.  It was stormy this morning which is why this post is going up so late.  Tony always made me shut off the desktop computer when there was thunder and lightening.  I never knew exactly why, but he was smarter than me when it came to that stuff, so I continue to do it.  Now it is just drizzling and 66 degrees right now, but looks like we’ll still get up to 84 degrees today.   I have to finish my Bassett training (to serve alcohol officially) and watch some videos on making apple pie because Apple Fest is coming soon!  It’s a big event and I am excited about it.   We make and sell about 350 apple pies at this event, and next Thursday I get to spend all day in the kitchen getting paid to make apple pie – how fun is that?!

Make it a great day!

Cooking Club…last gasp of summer!

When our Head Chef Courtney planned our theme for Cooking Club more than a month ago, who would have known that we would still be having temps in the 80s!  The last gasp of summer menu was perfect for last night.

On the menu:

Drinks were provided by Lindsay.  She made a blood orange soda sangria.  It was so light and refreshing!

  • One 750-ml bottle of crisp white wine (she used pinot grigio)
  • One 24 ounce bottle Italian blood orange soda
  • 1.25 cups fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1 blood orange, sliced
  • 1 cup blueberries, washed

Combine the white wine and blood orange soda in a large pitcher.  Stir in the orange juice, orange slices and blueberries and stirred over ice.  Recipe courtesy of Tiffani Thiessen from The Cooking Channel.

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Catherine prepared an appetizer of Greek Mezze Platter with Thyme Roasted Red Peppers from Ina Garten.   Catherine works full time so this was a great make ahead dish to bring.  She marinated the feta cheese and made the pita chips before work, then assembled it when she got home from work.   The marinated herbed feta cheese was out of this world.

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  • 6 large red bell peppers
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 6 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • sea salt
  • Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
  • Marinated Herbed Feta
  • olives
  • toasted pita triangles

Heat oven to 500.  Place the peppers on a sheet pan and roast for 30-35 minutes, until the skins are completely wrinkled and the peppers are charred, turning a couple times during roasting.  Wrap the tray in foil for 30 minutes.  When cool to touch, remove and discard the skin and seeds.  Place the peppers in a shallow dish and add olive oil, lemon juice, thyme and 3/4 teaspoon salt.  Wrap and refrigerate overnight.   To plate, sprinkle the peppers with a bit more salt, then arrange them artfully on a platter with the hummus, feta, olives and pita chips.  Click here to get the recipe for the herbed feta.  I could have made a meal on that plate alone!

Tina made our second appetizer:  Batali Bruschetta

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  • 10 ounces multicolored cherry tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves, thickly sliced
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 thin slices of pancetta
  • 32 sage leaves
  • 1 pound ricotta cheese
  • 8 slices of country bread, cut thick and toasted
  • Flaky sea salt for serving

Preheat the oven to 325.  In a bowl, toss the tomatoes with the garlic and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil; season with kosher salt and pepper.  Transfer the tomatoes to one side of the parchment-lined baking sheet and lay the pancetta slices out on the other side.  Bake for 25 minutes, until the pancetta is crisp.  Transfer the pancetta to paper towels to drain, then crumble.  Roast the tomatoes for about 10 more minutes, until bursting and lightly caramelized.  Transfer the tomatoes and any rendered fat from the pancetta to a bowl.  Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil over moderately high heat.  Add the sage and fry until bright greed and crisp, about 30-45 seconds.  Drain on paper towels.  Spread the ricotta on the toasts and top with the tomatoes, crumbled pancetta.  Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and top with the fried sage leaves.  If you’ve never had fried sage leaves, they are amazeballs!

I was assigned a side dish, and because I wanted to keep it light, decided to make an orzo salad.  Here is a tip I learned: orzo is basically pasta, but to give it a boost of flavor, boil the orzo with chicken broth instead of water.

  • 3 cups dried orzo
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup jarred roasted red peppers, chopped
  • 1 pound fresh asparagus
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon jarred pesto (thanks Jacky!)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 cup shaved parmesan cheese

Heat the chicken broth in a large stock pot.  When it’s almost to a boil, add the asparagus and cook for 1 minute.  Place in an ice bath to shock and stop the cooking process.  Once the broth comes back to a boil, add in the orzo and cook for 9 minutes.  Drain, but do not rinse.  Put the orzo on a large bowl.  Add in the chopped red peppers.  Chop the asparagus into two inch sections and toss that in the bowl.  To make the dressing:  in a small bowl add the lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper and pesto and mix well.  Pour over orzo veggie mix, and stir until combined.  Just before serving, add the shaved Parmesan cheese.

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Julie had the second side dish:  The Mothership Tomato Salad from Jamie Oliver

  • 2 1/4 pounds mixed ripe tomatoes, different shapes and colors
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • A good pinch dried oregano
  • Red wine or balsamic vinegar
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and grated
  • 1 fresh red chile, seeded and chopped

You can read Jamie’s instructions on how to pick tomatoes and his recommendations on putting the salad together here.  We joked and called this the 100 mile tomato salad because she had to drive to several stores to find heirloom tomatoes – thanks for your effort Julie!

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Donna also had a side dish, and I love that she made blueberry muffins.  It was the perfect accompaniment to all the other dishes that were served.  She and her husband used to go to a now closed restaurant in Wisconsin, and bought the restaurants cookbook just for the blueberry muffin recipe.  This one was moist, with a cinnamon sugar topping for a bit of texture, yet not overly sweet.

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  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup frozen (or fresh) blueberries
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup melted cutter
  • 1 cup milk

For the topping:

  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Place paper muffin cups in an ungreased muffin tin.  Sift dry ingredients together in large bowl.  Add blueberries to dry mix and mix until well coated.  In a small bowl, beat eggs well.  Add melted butter and milk.  Quickly stir liquid mixture into dry mix.  Do not overmix, as over blending will cause a tough texture.  Fill muffin cups 3/4 full, and sprinkle lightly with cinnamon sugar topping and bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees.

Courtney just moved into a new a new house over the summer, so while she normally hosts and provides the wine and drinks, she was our Head Chef.  How cute is she?!

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Now here’s the thing.  I didn’t think I liked salmon.  Like at all.  But I knew a Nicoise Platter had roasted veggies, so I knew I could pick around the salmon if I had to.

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She based her dish off of Ina Garten’s Roasted Salmon Nicoise Salad – and here is the best part, taking the basic recipe from Ina and making it your own with whatever veggies and sides you want.  Courtney went with fresh radishes, olives, roasted potatoes, hard boiled eggs, fresh figs and green beans.

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Then right before serving, she drizzled the whole dish with a Dijon mustard vinaigrette.  So good!

The table was decorated so cute – Courtney definitely has an eye for design. 

9.20.16 0629.20.16 069My plate:

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I ate every bite of my salmon – it was delicious!  And I never would have guessed that you baked it at 500 degrees.  It was light, flakey, and not fishy tasting at all.   I’ll just add that to the list of most expensive seafood that I like!

And if that wasn’t enough, Mary Beth made an Apple Crisp with homemade caramel sauce.  Guys, this one was insulin worthy!  While I normally don’t like sweet desserts, the tart granny smith apples she used cut the sweetness and I licked my plate clean.   You can find the recipe here for the Apple Crisp.   It was the first time Mary Beth made caramel sauce and has declared it so easy, she’ll never buy store bought again.

Caramel Sauce (makes 2.5 cups)


  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1-2 – 3/4 cup evaporated milk


  1. Add butter, brown sugar, water, and salt to medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir continuously until the better melts. 
  2. Once the better has melted bring the mixture to a boil. Boil for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and 1/2 cup evaporated milk. Stir until smooth. Add more evaporated milk if you’d like a thinner consistency. 
  3. To store, pour mixture into a mason jar and refrigerate for up to a week. Re-warm it in the microwave for a few seconds before serving

It was such a fun night.  Glad we reconnected after being apart all summer.  I have a new job, two other ladies had children that got married over the summer and another member is anxiously awaiting the adoption of a third child.   It was a night of great food, great friends and lots of laughter.  What more could you want in an evening out?

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Until next time ladies – cheers!