Monthly Archives:

March 2016


Excuse me, Chef?

I had yet another wonderful experience being not only a judge for the high school culinary state championships at Kendall College on Monday, I was also lucky enough to be a taste judge too!

PicMonkey Collage - kendall

Last time I was a “production” judge, which meant I went around the room looking to see how the teams worked together, if they had their timeline posted, recipes posted, knife skills, etc.  Just like last time, it was clear that there were leaders in the group almost right off the bat, you could tell the ones who had no confidence by asking SO many questions of their teammates, and some groups that never spoke to each other almost the whole time they cooked.  I did notice that a couple of the “leaders” of the group repeatedly would ask “how are you guys doing?”  “does anyone need help?” “I am so proud of you!”  Loved that.

Um, you will note on the lower right hand picture above, that ONIONS were a main component of the dish.  It is interesting to me because while everyone is working on the same exact recipes, each and every plate looked completely different.   The menu?  Fennel and pear salad with a citrus glaze and pecans, butternut squash and potato mash with browned butter, Brussels sprouts with caramelized onions, and pan seared chicken breasts with an apple juice sauce, then tiramisu with lady fingers for dessert.

Sadly, of all the chicken we tasted, only two were not overcooked.  The teams had 30 minutes to mis en place, but no cooking was allowed.  We had to dock two cooks who started cooking a bit early.  Then they had 60 minutes to prepare the three dishes.  Happily, everyone finished, which was good.  But there was one dish that all you could taste was salt.  I imagined their team thinking “season every layer of the dish!” to the point that was all we tasted.   I didn’t stay until the end, because it was going to be another hour or more before all the votes were tallied to declare the winner.  The top 6 cooks make it to Nationals which is in San Diego this year!

It was terrific, Theresa who has invited me to both of these events let me keep my chefs jacket, because she said it won’t be the last event I judge at.  Love.  It was just cool to walk around the room in the chef’s jacket and kids asking “excuse me, chef?  Can I  . . . .”   Fake it til you make it, right?!


So not knowing how long my day was going to be, I never told my twin sister that I was going to stop by.  She’s back to blogging again – this time posting all her WW meals – she’s down 16.5 pounds for the year so far!   So I walked the three miles from Kendall College all the way to her office at State and Madison.  On my walk there, I saw a McDonald’s food truck!  They were giving away fresh French fries and Sprite!   I never thought of a fast food restaurant having a food truck!

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I only spent about 15 minutes there because she was busy, but it’s always nice to see her.  And she just got her hair cut and got bangs for the first time in as long as I can remember.  She was worried about how they would look, and I was like “um, all you have to do is look at me and know you’ll look fabulous!”  Ha!  Great seeing you Jenn!


Last week I posted the burger I had with my Mom at The Little Gem Café in Oak Park on Instagram:

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Not only did I get 387 likes because, duh – it looks amazing, but I also got several comments from people telling me where they thought the best burger was in Chicago.  My Instagram friend Cindy suggested Au Cheval, and since it’s literally a 10 minute (if that) walk from the train station, after I said goodbye to my sister, I headed in that direction.  I got nearly 20k steps in on Monday with all the walking!

It turned out to be the perfect time to go.  I had only had a Kind bar for breakfast, and little tastes of chicken, mash, etc. for the taste judging, so I hadn’t had a real meal all day and I was pretty hungry.  I got there at 4:30 in the afternoon, and there was one lone seat at the bar – perfect!

PicMonkey Collage - cheval

Thanks to their photo on their website, you can see where I was sitting to get that first shot above:

au cheval

Here is one thing that was weird to me – sitting at the bar, I had a server.  Huh.  Not sure if it was just because of where I was sitting in front of the beer taps?  But it was actually quite nice!  And if anyone is wondering, I did have a beer.  I couldn’t pass it up being at a place that had so many beers on tap!  And while I went from January 1 until my trip to Austin without alcohol, I did have about 7 drinks total in the 11 days I was in Austin.  I had two glasses of wine when we went out to Ruth’s Chris for Jacob’s birthday, and then that beer.  Compared to what I used to drink, this is a vast improvement!

Anywho, online it said that the wait could be upwards of 90 minutes, which I would have been totally fine with, because they take your cell number and text you when your table is ready, so you could check out any of their neighboring bars.  I asked for the single burger, and declined on the egg, because I am not a runny egg kind of person, but said absolutely yes please on the candied bacon.

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I as also fascinated that the burgers were served right behind the bar.  That guy there was sweating his balls off and I imagine he perpetually smells of burgers and fries, which should actually be a men’s cologne if you ask me Open-mouthed smile

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Lordy.  My mouth is just watering again looking at that picture.  Perfect soft bun, and turns out a single is actually a double!  The patties are thin, so there is no asking for temp other than if you want it really well done.  The candied bacon was thick, slightly sweet, and that hint of saltiness with the buttery burger was too much, in the best way possible of course!  Um, you will note that there are tiny chopped minced onions, and I only scraped off a few.  The burger was juicy and flavorful, and I will declare this my favorite thin patty burger I’ve ever had.  I think the Little Gem wins it for me with texture, medium rare and flavor though.  But the fact that had two of the best burgers of my life within days of each other?  Priceless.  I am really going to miss this semi-retirement I have going on whenever it ends!


Another thing I love about not having a job right now?  Hanging with Hannah!  Yesterday was her only day off of school AND work, and Jacob worked and had school yesterday, so after she homework in the morning, and I did more behind the scenes computer stuff for the blog, we took the dogs on a long walk.  It was near 60 degrees yesterday, not a cloud in the sky.  I loved just being able to spend time with her and not feel like we are rushing trying to cram it in when we can.  I promise I am not choking Rummy, the harnesses and longer leashes were in Jacob’s car, so we had to improvise.  Rummy didn’t want anything to do with the river, and both dogs were worn out by the time we got home.

PicMonkey Collage - pups

Are you sick of my snapchat pics yet?!  OMG, it gets me laughing so hard.  I’ll give you these below so hopefully you’ll laugh today too.  Laughter is the best medicine, right?!

PicMonkey Collage - snapchat

I am sure if Tony were still alive he’d say “why do you keep putting those pics up?!”  And if he were still alive, I’d tell him “because it’s my blog, and I can if I want to!”  Sorry Shelley!  (these kind of freak her out!)


And last, but not least, I was thrilled to pick up my friend Andie’s new cookbook!   She and I have been blog friends since 2010 when I started following her blog, and vice versa.   She’s not only written a New York Times best seller “It Was Me All Along” but her book was the first book I had read in 10 years (um, turns out I love reading blogs!) and I’ve probably read it at least 9 times since then.  So many passages I’ve underlined and go back and reread to help me stay on track.  “Another plate wouldn’t have brought me any greater satisfaction, because contentment doesn’t double by the serving.”  “That girl version of me learned that I shouldn’t experience discomfort.  That whenever I start to feel even one inkling of boredom, doubt, anxiety, or anger, food would soothe me.”

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I had Hannah take this picture and I put it on Instagram and tagged her on the photo, probably like thousands of other fans did too on the day her cookbook came out.  So I was a bit shocked when she responded not too long afterward!

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Can’t wait to check it out – Hannah already flagged her overnight oats with a blood orange mint topping.  You can check out a few of the recipes she had other bloggers make prior to the cookbook being officially published yesterday here.


So I think I am doing pretty well with living my life now.  It’s made me painfully aware how much of a home body I had become, not only when Tony was ill, which couldn’t be helped.  But I also realized it’s because Tony was a home body.  He liked going to one thing, then coming right back home.  And going to Chicago?  That was like pulling teeth – and I think the last trip we took to Chicago was back in 2009?   I miss that face! Sad smile

tony and biz

live your life



Grilled Meat!

I had such a fun weekend.   Tony’s nephew and his wife and two kids stopped by on Saturday for a visit.  They were visiting from Tennessee and I am just so happy that they carved out some time to meet me – because it’s the first time meeting their daughter and only the second time I’ve met their son. 

PicMonkey Collage - HB

It’s nice that Tony’s extended family hasn’t forgotten about me now that he’s passed away.  Although Tony used to joke that if we ever got divorced he said that all his friends and family would stay on my side after the divorce!  Can you get over those baby lips, tiny toes and that smile?  The dogs did great.  I was  bit worried and had them in the bedroom with the door shut.  I wasn’t worried about the dogs so much, but I wasn’t sure how their son was around dogs, and being that they were both little, I thought it might be a bit scary for him, but he loved them.  Even had to get away a couple times when Roman wanted to lick his ears when he was on the floor!  And Roman was also very interested in the baby – it was all so cute.   It was a great afternoon spent catching up and I hope to plan a road trip down to the Nashville area when it gets nicer out, so I’ll be the one to come visit.  Izzy and I could do some damage in her kitchen! 

Saturday night also marked the second annual Ruth’s Chris birthday dinner for Jacob.  He turned 24 yesterday.  While Jacob and I both woke up dreaming about their awesome beef, Hannah was a bit apprehensive.  Last year she got a salad and onion rings, and while the onion rings were outstanding, the salad was just okay for her.  But it’s the equivalent of ordering lasagna in an Irish pub!   I was so proud that she actually ordered a shrimp dish, and declared it the best shrimp she’s ever tasted.  Jacob got the 22 ounce bone-in Cowboy ribeye, and I got the petite ribeye, which wasn’t even that petite at 16 ounces.  I brought over half of it home.  But I took one bite of Jacob’s beef and declared it would have been worth the extra $8 to get the 22 ounce ribeye.

PicMonkey Collage RC

Hannah and I need to find a recipe for their cremini mushrooms – the sauce maybe has cognac in it?  All I know is that we were all fighting over those mushrooms.  It was a fun evening out.

The only bad part of having your birthday on Easter is that a lot of places were closed for the day.  He originally wanted to have a Chinese fest, but the two best Chinese restaurants were closed for the day.  I knew it wasn’t going to be too bad weather wise outside, and asked if there was anything he wanted to have for dinner that was grilled.  Ribs!   Jacob’s Mom picked up country ribs and came over and popped those in my oven, while I made pork spare ribs – mainly because Hannah is picky about ribs and I knew she’d like the “skinnier” ribs.  I made a batch of my Rudy’s copycat BBQ sauce,  and we baked our ribs for three hours in the oven at 250 degrees, and I finished them off on the Weber.  I had a hell of a time starting the coals because it was raining by the time I started to grill, but I got it to work.

PicMonkey Collage Weber

I love my copper colored Weber grill I got last year.  And I love how Jacob’s Mom cooks like I do – buying enough food for 10 people, even though we were only cooking for five!  And Roman was trying to sway my Mom into giving any leftovers off her plate, you know, just in case she didn’t want it anymore.

I am up early today because I am actually headed downtown for the State finals for a High School Culinary Competition at Kendall College.  I was there back in early February when I was a guest judge and spending that day around chefs, and the cooking college –   it basically was the turning point in me deciding that I didn’t want to work at my job anymore.   And here we are and I’ve been off of work for a month, I spent 11 days of that month in Austin, and I get to do things like being a judge at a culinary competition without having to worry about work, or if someone else requested the day off, etc.  I am thankful every day that my husband and I were smart enough to buy life insurance – I urge anyone who’s married, even if you are young, to buy it, because you just don’t know if and when you’ll ever need it.

You can follow me along on Instagram (mybizzykitchen) until my next post on Wednesday.  Time to go catch the train to Chicago – hope you had an amazing weekend.  Make it a great day!

Bread/ Pizza

Spinach and Cheese Pizza with Walnut Pear Balsamic Glaze

A few weeks ago I realized that Weight Watchers started following me on Instagram!

weight watchers follwing me

I was like, WOW! until my friend Loren pointed out that WW has 342,000 followers and only follows 546, and I am one of them.  Double WOW!  They had asked if they could use my spinach pizza with balsamic glaze in their social media pages, and I of course said yes!  Well yesterday, in the midst of doing laundry, doing computer work, etc., I looked down at my phone and saw all these new people following me on Instagram and I was wondering what the heck was going on!

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Within an hour of WW sharing my party pizza Friday picture, I had 550 new followers on Instagram, traffic to this site shut it down for a bit (actually, not sure what happened exactly, but thankfully my brother Charlie got it up and running really quickly – thanks Charlie!).  Of course, I like to think that the traffic from Weight Watchers crashed my site Open-mouthed smile

Then people started tagging me asking me for the recipe, and like most party pizza Friday nights, I just kind of wing it.  The dough is still my tried and true no rise pizza dough.  That dough is enough for two 10-14 inch pizzas, depending on how thin you roll out the dough.  I like mine pretty thin.  The best part is that even though you can roll it out and use it right away, it’s even better the longer it sits in the fridge.  I’ve left mine in there for up to a week, and just bring it out for 30 minutes before using it so it gets to room temperature.

So I thought I’d write the recipe here so that if you want to make it at home you can.  Seriously, you could bake four pizzas in a row faster than delivery would take!  This recipe below is for two pizzas:

Spinach Cheese Pizza with Walnut Pear Balsamic Glaze
Serves 16
Why order take out when you can use my no rise pizza dough? Just mix, roll out and bake - way faster than takeout any day.
Write a review
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
13 min
Total Time
20 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
13 min
Total Time
20 min
172 calories
14 g
27 g
9 g
9 g
5 g
79 g
356 g
1 g
0 g
3 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
Amount Per Serving
Calories 172
Calories from Fat 77
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 9g
Saturated Fat 5g
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 2g
Cholesterol 27mg
Sodium 356mg
Total Carbohydrates 14g
Dietary Fiber 1g
Sugars 1g
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. 2 cups flour
  2. 1 teaspoon salt
  3. 1 teaspoon yeast
  4. 1 cup water
  5. 8 ounces shredded 50% reduced fat Cabot cheese
  6. 8 ounces shredded mozzarella
  7. 1 cup jarred pizza sauce
  8. 1 cup chopped baby spinach
  9. 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  10. pinched of crushed red pepper
  11. 2 tablespoons walnut pear balsamic glaze
  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees.  I use a baking steel (I absolutely love it and I do not get paid to say that!) so I heat it in the oven.  You can use a baking stone, pizza pan, or cookie sheet.  In a bowl mix the flour, salt and yeast together, then stir in the water.  I actually use my hands to bring it all together.  Divide dough in half.
For one pizza
  1. 1/2 the dough, rolled out
  2. 1/2 cup pizza sauce
  3. 8 ounces of the mixed cheese
  4. sprinkle with 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  5. pinch of crushed red pepper
  6. bake for 12-14 minutes
  7. Once out of the oven, spread with 1/2 cup chopped fresh spinach and finish off with 1 tablespoon of walnut pear balsamic glaze over the whole pizza.
  1. Check out your vinegar aisle at your grocery store – mine has about half a dozen or more flavored balsamic glazes for about $2.50 a bottle.
My Bizzy Kitchen
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I don’t remember the brand pizza sauce I used on this pizza, but each slice came in at 4.5 points.  The dough recipe is for two pizzas, 8 slices per pizza and just 2 smart points for the pizza dough per slice – you could totally skip the cheese, or reduce the cheese by half, add way more veggies – the sky is the limit.  I hope this no rise pizza dough becomes your Party Pizza Friday night! 

So excited to meet my new grand niece today – they are already on their way!  Enjoy the rest of your weekend – and let me know if you make this pizza at home.  If you are on Instagram, just tag me so I can check it out!