Monthly Archives:

September 2016


Chef Appetizer

When I was grocery shopping with my Mom earlier this week, we both picked up a package of Healthy Life English Muffins.   This brand is my go to brand for hamburger and hot dog buns, and never realized they made English muffins.  So I made an open faced breakfast muffin with lots of chopped cilantro – love the cilantro/egg combo!

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The verdict?  I loved them, Hannah thought they tasted “diety” and stale. All I know is that I love that I only had to spend 2 points on the muffin, so I could have 1 1/2 eggs (split 3 eggs with Hannah) (3) 1/2 ounce of cheese (2) and 1 piece of thick cut bacon on top (2).  With a honey crisp apple on the side, breakfast comes in at 9 smart points.

I’ve talked about one of the benefits of my job is bringing home leftovers.  I normally don’t take much home, especially the unhealthy stuff, but when I saw there were leftover mini crab cakes, I was in.  I wasn’t in the party that made these, so wasn’t exactly sure what was in them.  I reheated them in the microwave for one minute, then flash pan fried them in 1 teaspoon grape seed oil to get the crisp back in the cakes.  I guestimated 7 smart points for the crab cakes, 3 points for leftover rice a roni with some cucumbers with fat free ranch and hot sauce on the side.  I didn’t have to be to work until 5:00 p.m. yesterday, so it was nice to have lunch at home.

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I was working at the Lincoln Square location, where Apple Fest is going to be this weekend, and as soon as I walked in the door, I could smell the deliciousness of dozens and dozens of apple pies.  It smelled amazing!

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And I may have stated in an earlier post that if you buy the whole pie, you get to keep the cast iron skillet.  However, this year, we will just be selling pie by the slice.  I guess in years past we sell out of the whole pie too quick, and this year is the first year that it’s two days.  We are also selling pulled pork sandwiches with an apple slaw, selling a hard apple cider and apple cider liqueur from Journeyman Distillery.  I’ve never had an apple cider liqueur before and love that you can serve it hot or cold.

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I love how mindful The Chopping Block is about not wasting anything.  We have bins at both locations called “Chef App” which is bits and pieces of ingredients leftover from private parties or cooking classes.  The other class assistant I was with yesterday came up with this Chef Appetizer for our cooking class last night.  It was shrimp filled wontons that were deep fried with a side salad with crispy prosciutto.   I love how she tries to use as many ingredients in the Chef App bin as possible – that would be my goal too!

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The cooking class went great.  I love the Chef I worked with – his name is Nick and he’s got diabetes too.  He even has a tattoo on his arm that says “Type I Diabetic” in case something happens to him, people will know right away he’s diabetic.   He’s only a couple years older than Hannah!   I feel like a mother figure to a lot of these kids, which I love.  I am always reminding him, “did you check your blood sugar before the guests arrive?!”

On my drive home I always see this 24 hour diner, and one of these days I’ll stop and eat there.  I love tiny dives like this.  And who doesn’t love biscuits and gravy?!

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I wasn’t overly hungry when I got home, but knew I needed to eat something, and when I looked in the pantry, I noticed Hannah had a box of Kraft mac n cheese – one of her favorites and mine too.  Shocked that she bought the elbow macaroni kind though, because she’s always telling me that the shaped pastas have more flavor.  All I know was that 15 minutes after getting home, I was eating a cup of this for 8 smart points.  And lot’s of cracked pepper and Tabasco is necessary with this mac n cheese.

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This is going to be a busy weekend for me!  I am working Apple Fest tomorrow from 8:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.  Tomorrow night is my 30th high school reunion!  Cannot believe it’s been 30 years already.  I kind of  look the same 30 years later, no?! Smile with tongue out

Biz high school graduation

Then working a double on Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.  Whew!  I am just hoping the weather will hold out this weekend. 

Happy Friyay!  Hope you have a great weekend – follow me on Instagram for all the Apple Fest pics and I’ll do a recap on Monday.  Make it a great day!


Dinner At Home

I like to think if you add any type of egg to tacos, no matter what the filling, you can call them breakfast tacos.  Yesterday morning I chopped up 1.5 ounces of my leftover Nashville Hot Chicken and 1/2 ounce of fries leftover from Heaven on Seven.  Tossed in some chopped broccoli slaw and egg whites and scrambled that and tossed it into 3 corn tortillas and pan fried those puppies up for a delicious 10 smart point breakfast.  I didn’t even use cheese!

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It was a crappy day out, so I was happy that my schedule worked so that I could take the train to work.  Even though it isn’t an express train during the day, I don’t mind the hour and twenty minute commute.  They have plugs on the train so I don’t use up my phone battery and just chill out on Netflix and youtube – goes by in the blink of an eye.  When I got off the train it had stopped raining, but it was chilly – the temps were only in the low 50’s, but it was windy so it felt much colder than that.

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I had planned on walking to Xoco – Rick Bayless’s casual lunch spot, but it was too crappy outside, so I went to the food court on the second floor of the Merchandise Mart.   I have never been to the food court before.

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I decided on Protein Bar because I didn’t have a whole lot of time to look around.  My friend Jacky told me that next time I need to try the falafel at Mezza Grill.   I got the buffalo protein bowl – chicken, celery, cucumber, carrots, blue cheese and chicken.  290 calories, 4 grams saturated fat, 5 grams sugar and 31 grams protein, so it was 7 smart points and I have to say very filling!

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Then it was time for work!  JeanMarie Brownson was the guest chef for a private book signing event.  She is a lovely woman, very down to earth, and I loved hearing her stories about her love of food.  Before we got there we set up the family style dining table.

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We started up in the retail space where the guests ate her prosciutto parmesan puffs (which I never got a picture of!) and sipped on a complimentary glass of champagne.  While we prepared the puffs ahead of time for the guests to eat, JeanMarie demonstrated how easy they were to make.

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She brought a few of her favorite kitchen items and shared a story with each.  A giant rolling pin that her husband of 30+ years gave her on their first wedding anniversary, that has since been the focal point of her and her families Christmas cookie baking extravaganza every year since.  She said that they have whittled their cookie making down to 29 varieties this year!  She mentioned a copper pot that was part of a set purchased on her and her husband’s fifth wedding anniversary while in France.  The dollar to franc ratio was very generous back then, and they purchased a whole set of copper pots.  Only one tiny problem, the store that they purchased the pots was the first stop of the day, so they had to pack all the pots in their backpacks and her husband had to carry most of the pots around the whole day!

Her message was simple.  Even if she only has 20 minutes for dinner, she always sits at a table, with a plate and silverware.  That was one of the reasons she started her whole column in the Chicago Tribune was because while her children knew how to cook, they didn’t actually know how to put a whole dinner together when they were teens.   Now in their 20’s, she’s quite confident of their abilities in their own kitchens.

“The Chicago native shares with Good Eating readers the recipes she develops at home to feed her family and friends. Brownson has long experience in food; she was the test kitchen director for the Chicago Tribune from 1980 until 1996. She left the Tribune to start Frontera Foods with partners Rick Bayless and Manny Valdes. She is now culinary director of that Mexican foods company and also serves as culinary director for Frontera Media Productions, which produces the PBS TV show “Mexico — One Plate at a Time with Rick Bayless.” She has co-authored three cookbooks with Bayless and wife Deann, including “Mexico — One Plate at a Time,” winner of the James Beard Foundation’s International Cookbook Award.” – Chicago Tribune

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And for the record, I tried beets again, and still don’t like them.  The only time I’ve eaten them and liked them were when they are pickled.  If I ever need a great dessert, these latte brownies were very good – very coffee tasting with the espresso powder.

Everyone had a great time, the pace was well throughout the night, and before I knew I, it was time to head home.  Love Chicago at night!

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I am working a tapas party tonight at Lincoln Square, but don’t start until 5:00, so had a nice morning hanging out with Hannah this morning sipping coffee outside before she went to work, which is why this post is going up later than usual.  That’s one of the things I love about my job at The Chopping Block is that each day is a bit different, and I feel like I have so much time to do other stuff during the day before work. 

I plan on getting my walking shoes before the rain starts later today.  It’s breezy and 64 degrees – perfect! 

Make it a great day!

Beef/ dinner/ Healthy/ Weight Watchers

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
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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!