Growing A Garden

 

bellpeppers
This year I decided to grow my own garden. I decided to that last year too but the harvest wasn’t as good. This year I had my woahs with a tomato plant I bought from Home Depot. Some kind of hybrid tomato plant that manage to get eaten alive by bugs. in addition it had blossom end rot situation going on with my poor tomatoes. I was worried about that poor plant that I went on-line to ask for expert help, and even contact my Aunt Teresa to get her advise on how to rescue my sick plant. In the end  I had given up on that plant and allow it to just die because it just wasn’t growing anything that looked healthy. However I did harvest some tomatoes from it as it was green and before it rotted I picked them off the vine. They were able to mature off the vine which I was grateful I was able to do that indoors.

I had other plants that did successful grow so I am thankful for that and my efforts weren’t for nothing. I was able to grow, some carrots, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers and bitter melon. I was able to harvest a few crops this year they were all small in size but I’m sure it will get better the next year I try to fertilize and grow new crops in my garden. I also tried to do straw berries this year and we got tiny little strawberries, I was very excited but also disappointed to see how tiny my strawberries were. However, I was given some hope when my other green thumb friends told me I’d have to wait another year or two before they get big and juicy. I’m looking forward to harvesting one last small crop of veggies between now and October before the winter weather sets into Chicago. All in all I feel God has blessed me with a good growing season despite the problems I ran into when with tomatoes and my green onions weren’t huge. I plan to compost for the first time before the season ends. Make some good soil for the new spring garden next year.

 

 

Pot stickers

Potstickers

All this week I was learning how to accomplish juicy delicious dumplings. However, the Chinese in me just shouts ” pot stickers.” I have worked on making my own skins for the dumpling filling and now I can see why people buy them. Making your own skins takes a lot of time and work. It can get tiresome standing there and rounding and rolling  each 1 inch piece of dough into a perfect circle to fill the dumplings and seal it. It is worth the time but I still would rather find a good brand of dumpling skins in the store.  However, I have tried many different dumpling wrappers and they don’t meet the standards I am looking for in a dumpling. I like to taste good and when i pan fry the dumplings I don’t want a hard texture but crispy yet soft. I don’t want to feel like I’m working out my mouth while eating a dumpling is what I am saying.

Here are the ingredients and directions as follows.

 

Juicy Delicious Potstickers

tools

2 prep bowls

teaspoons

chef’s knife

chop sticks or wooden spoon

 

Ingredients

Dumpling skins

200 grams of all-purpose-flour

1/2 tsp of kosher salt

1/2 cup of boiling hot water

 

Take all these ingredients and measure them into a prep-bowl. As you add hot boiling water to the flour you need gently gather the flour into the hot water. You might get a little burned but it doesn’t really damage your finger tips, do don’t worry. I just learn to deal with the heat, and it’s hot only for a few seconds.  When kneading the dough you are looking for a dough texture that feels soft and slightly sticky. Knead the dough in the bowl until the bowl starts to look clean. If the dough is too dry add little more water if too wet add a little more flour. Adjust to the right texture as needed. Place the kneaded dough into another prep bowl place a damp towel over the dough let it sit for 30 minutes

 

Filling

1 lb of ground pork

1 lb of ground chicken ( fat is good)

1/4 cup of soaked chopped shiitake mushrooms ( soak up to 8 hours is best)

chives come in small packages use the whole thing or if you get the Asian kind need to use about 1/4 cup ( chopped finely)

1 medium size yellow onion or white onion

1 stalks of green onions ( chopped finely)

2 tsp of minced garlic

2 tsp of peeled and minced ginger ( optional)

1 tablespoon of light soy sauce

dash of sesame seed oil

dash of fish sauce

1 tsp of kosher salt

1 tsp of white pepper

1/4 cup of water

Mix all ingredients together in a prep bowl. After you make your filling is it best to cook some of the filling on a pan and taste the filling before you use wrap into the dumpling wraps. This steps prevents you from having filling that is too bland or too salty. There many ways to fold dumpling skins you find a video on youtube. I like to do the one where you fold about 4 creases and sealing both ends tightly.

Happy Hour day At Home

FreshBread

 

Today my husband I are hosting our first ” Happy hour” at our home with a few good friends. The guest are bringing something to share and I plan to make chicken ceasar salad and bruschetta adding some  balsamic glaze to the it. I made some french baguette last night so I can use it for toasting today. I know a long route just to make your own toast right? So worth it though I love making my own bread whenever I can find the time for it. I will also be serving my first sangria drink and I bought some beautiful meyer lemons for the cocktail drink. I’m very excited about using Meyer lemons because I’ve never been able to actually hold one in my hands until now and they taste just like a regular lemon with a hint of orange flavor to it. It smells amazing though. More pictures to come tonight!

 

Happy Hour Pictures of the food we had, for some reason we forgot to take picture of the sangria we had O well.

Grill Chicken Caesar salad, Bruschetta , and Charcuterie and Cheeses

happyhourSaladcheesesHappyhourBruschettahappyhour

 

Happy Hour Journeys

urbandinfluencesCocktail McCormick#Schmicks

 

Happy Hour days have been great and so far the one establishments I didn’t care for, but that’s all part of the exploring and fun of Happy Hour times. We recently had McCormick & Schmick’s Happy hour it was good, but not great. So after this we will take a short pause from Happy hour and do one at our own house!  We have had guest to contribute to the happy hour by bringing an appetizer and I make the main meal and have some cheese and wine out for us all to enjoy. I am getting interested in trying out some more goat cheese, and hard apple cider that I’ve been seeing advertised on television commercials. My, the commercials are convincing I hope it taste as good as it looks.

 

Pictures to come!

BBQ chicken Salad like Noodle and Company

bbqcksalad

 

Noodles and Company makes a delicious backyard bbq chicken salad which is closer to a cole slaw than a salad but it is still very good. But I felt this is something I can do at home and not have to pay the money for it so I did myself. FYI I eye ball most of my cooking these are rough estimates of what I do in the kitchen. You can always adjust to your taste don’t have to follow my measurements. Have fun trying to make this delicious summer time salad.

 

Cole Slaw Dressing

1/2 cup of mayo

1 tsp of celery salt

2 tsp of cider vinegar

1 tsp of dry mustard

sprinkle some crush black pepper

2 Tsp of sugar ( 2 TBL if you like it sweeter)

and mxi together and let it sit in the fridge for about 1 hour or more. Over night is even better.

 

BBQ Chicken Salad time

1 large chicken breast

1/2 cup of your favorite bbq sauce

2 grilled corn ears ( cooked can corn is fine too)

half of washed red cabbage

2 heads of Romaine lettuce ( wash it please let it dry)

2 tomatoes whatever kind you like ( i like the large sandwich kind)

olive oil

salt

black pepper

 

Procedure: Provided you already made the cole slaw dressing you can go ahead and make your salad.

Step 1 — Take all the veggies slice them all into bite size pieces. Wash all veggies thoroughly allow the to dry properly in colanders. Except the corn. Take the corn out of the silk but leave it in its husk and soak them for about 20 minutes to get moisture. Melt some butter and brush butter with salt and pepper on it before you grill it. If you’re working with can born steam at usual or boil it and drain it add some butter and salt and pepper to the cooked corn place it aside to cool down.

Step 2 —  Take the chicken breast trim off any fat and butterfly the chicken breast and marinade it with a little olive oil salt and black pepper ( white pepper is fine too) Cover with plastic wrap allow it to sit in the fridge for 1 hour or more but if you’re going to grill or cook it sooner left on the counter or 3o minutes is fine.

Step 3 —    Grill the chicken breast only take 15 minutes total. If you can’t grill the chicken you can bake it in the oven  at 425 for about 17 minutes. Chicken breast cooks faster than dark meat on a chicken. After it is cooked allow it to cool down cube it or you can shredded it and put some bbq sauce over it and mix it together well.  Set it aside for later use.

Step 4 — Arranging the salad time

1 take the romaine lettuce ( chopped) place it into the salad bowl next add the rest of the sliced veggies, like cabbage, corn and tomatoes in the center then add the chicken and drizzle the cole slaw dressing.

2 Take a pair of salad tones and from the center of the salad bowl toss the salad slowly so that you don’t accidentally toss food out of the salad bowl. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Happy Hour Adventures tonight 1st one ” Check Please!”

 

Cafe Ba Ba Reeba HappyHour

As a single person I never did any serious happy hour bar food and drinks because it just wasn’t something I did. Now, after I’ve been married for 10 years and with three kids I decided it’s time to enjoy some happy hour time in the city I love Chicago! We are hitting the town and painting red!

Tonight we checked into Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba. 2024 N Halsted St, 60614 Chicago. We sat down at the bar and ordered two red sangrias, and some $1 pintxos and  $3 tapas. It was my first time at this lettuce entertain you restaurant in about 12 years. I haven’t had a reason to come back until now for their Happy Hour deals. We got there with just about 30 minutes before Happy Hour ended so we had to order food immediately and get enough to fill our tummies. We ordered mostly everything offered on the Happy Hour Menu, but the tapas we liked best were the garlic potato salad, chicken empanadas and for their Pintxo I liked the deviled bacon mustard egg and their Laughing Bird Shrimp With Pork Lardo it was tiny and tasty. The bird shrimps were so tiny but the flavors were all there a little grilled flavor with a bit a fat. I ate like two of them and had some chicken and ham croquettes which I thought were okay. Happy Hour was enjoyable I think the next time I go here I would be careful how much I ordered because you can easily go over because it is tiny dishes you feel that won’t fill you up but they do. So when you do these tapas remember that you can probably about three total and be pretty filled. The pintxos people get tiny bites one at a time just order the Pintxos that you really like and eat it twice should be enough to satisfy a hungry stomach. I feel if someone comes out of a happy hour hungry you can always pick up a dessert on the way home somewhere else.

 

In conclusion Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba a fun happy hour time great red sangria and I enjoyed the tapas and pintxos.  However, even though the happy hour deals are great $1 for the pintox and $3 for the tapas you can rack up the bill fast. My favorite items were the empanadas and the garlic potato salad can’t go wrong with those tapas ever. I didn’t love their sangria but I didn’t ate it either. I like the sparking wine combination with my sangrias this one was red wine with fruit in it and it was good enough for a Happy Hour. The big question is would I return to this place for ” Happy Hour?” Answer is yes but with friends and watching my budget because there are some items I could’ve ordered less of or not at all like their ham and cheese croquettes.   At least we all make mistakes in ordering food when we are new to a restaurant right? Onward we go to future ” Happy Hours.”

 

 http://www.cafebabareeba.com .

Drunken Noodles ( pad kee mao)

 

IMG_20140712_171445

 

 

Last week we were dining at a Thai restaurant in Sevierville Tennessee.  The restaurant was called ” Thai Basil” I know what you are thinking  Thai food in Tennesse what we’re you thinking right? But the Food was very good and the service was excellent.   We were on vacation in Piegon Forge TN and need a break from the food around us. I really wanted to stay away from eating any kind of Asian food in Tennessa basically because I feared the worse Asian food ever, but I caved in on the last day we were there because I couldn’t take anymore southern comfort food. Southern comfort food is more like comfort my big fat thighs. As much as people love their fried chicken and biscuits I can’t do that all the time. I needed me some good Asian food and Thai Basil was my answer and I thanked my husband for suggesting it.

At Thai Basil we ordered the typical Thai specials, panang curry with chicken, pad thai chicken, pad see ew and we ordered the drunken noodles. I loved their drunken noodles it was full of flavor and color with the bell peppers and onions and noodles. I asked the owner how his Mama made the dish but it was a secret. But I got a few hints how it was made and so I took a crack at it.

A lot of ingredients involved in the whole dish but I felt i came to a close second to the dish. Thai Basil beat on flavor and color. But as a person who isn’t Thai I gave it a good shot and would work on mastering this dish again.

My version of ” Drunken Noodles”

Ingredients

4 packages of prepared ramen noodles ( cooked and water drained)

1 small red bell pepper sliced

1 small green bell pepper slice

slice celery

1 yellow onion sliced

Fresh Garlic minced

Ginger thinly sliced

( about 1-2 tsp of each roughly)

light soy sauce

dark soy sauce

fish sauce

oyster sauce

hoisin sauce

 

You can always add chicken or beef to this dish but I made mine vegetarian because it’s just easier. I don’t remember what type of meat was in the drunken noodles when we ordered.

Procedure:  Step 1 – Make sure your ramen noodles or whatever noodle you decided to use . My suggestion is a quick and ready to cook noodles is best. This is suppose to be hassle free dish almost like a fried rice version with noodles.

Step 2 – Heat up a wok on medium high heat and hopefully if you have all your vegetables sliced if not get those thing prepared now. Add a little cooking oil to the wok and allow it to heat it up it takes no more than than 1 minute.

Step 3 –   Turn heat up on high and stir-fry the veggies all of them onions, bell peppers  you can add other veggies too like celery or thinly sliced carrots. If using meat you have to cook meat first before the vegetables. At this time add the minced garlic and ginger.

Step 4- After the veggies have been cooked add the noodles and sprinkle in the soy sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce and hoisin sauce a little at a time and taste it over and over until the flavor suits you. Turn off Eat and serve it up.

Asian Outpost – Making their lettuce wraps

 

lettucewrapingerdients

As you all know I went to Asian Outpost recently and decided if I liked a dish enough I will try to learn how to make it. I really liked the lettuce wrap dish we had as an appetizer plate. It is a chicken based dish wrapped with romaine lettuce. I thought the flavors were simple but delicious. The textures were soft and a bit of a tiny crunch comes from the pinenuts. I really think anybody can do this at home. The next big question about this dish is how did it cost to make it and how much did I pay for it at the restaurant.

 

Asian outpost price for it $ 8.95 they did the cooking and I got to eat it for $ 8.95.  The portions were small and they let you know it’s a small plate. Appetizers tend to just be starts and snacks right? So they were on the money with that one although sad thing is you’d have to double up on the orders if you want to feed a family of four or more and that can being double the price.
At Home – Estimate total cost of making this dish $15 most of the ingredients I already had at home so I didn’t count it into the cost of what I had purchase to make this dish. If I did count the ingredients at home I would estimate it to be $20. I increased the portions 10 folds we had it more of a side dish for dinner rather than an appetizer plenty for all to eat. It is not a cheap dish to make if you had to buy all the ingredients because you don’t have it on hand. However, I did make a larger portion of the dish.

 

Ingredients : Tell you was most expensive with $ signs

1 head of Romaine lettuce washed and dried ($0.99)

Black Fungus Mushrooms ( Wood ear mushrooms) ( soak these in water for about 10 minutes)

1 can Water Chestnuts ( optional) SKIPPED IT

Pine nuts $$ ( paid $5.25 for a tiny bag)

4-5 pieces Dried Shiitake Mushrooms ( soaked them in water for 20 minutes)  $2

Chicken ( marinaded it) $4

1 small onion

1 tsp Oyster sauce

1 tsp Hoisin sauce

 

Method of cooking : It’s a stir-fry dish.

Here are my results the flavors were on the money.  It was easy to make and anybody can do it.. You need to make sure you marinade the chicken at least 2 hours in advance, I did it over night. I always believe that in order to stir-fry you must marinade your meats and allow it to soak up flavors for several hours.  The rest of the ingredients need to diced up into little slivers. In this recipe.  Using a wok or frying pan you add some oil heat it on high. Stir fry need to be cooked on high heat and you can turn down the heat as the meat is fully cooked through and then toss in the other ingredients to cook along with the meat. You can place a lid to speed up the cooking but only for 1 or 2 minutes.

I actually forgot to use water chestnuts which was fine because I don’t care for water chestnuts. I would try to add it next time to see if it made a difference.  However, I love the dish as it was.  Also you can probably leave out nuts if you’re allergic or substitute it with unsalted cashews if you don’t like pine nuts. I think you try to make it yourself. It taste great wrapped  fresh romaine lettuce. It is gluten-free and very yummy.

 

LettuceWraps

 

 

FairPlay is Fair Game for Everybody 2200 S Western Ave Chicago, IL

 

Face it when you walk into Fairplay grocery store it’s fair game for everybody. Their produce is cheap but you have to use their produce right away after you buy them. I like the prices on their shelves items but again depending on the time of month you shop prices and vary greatly. I am attracted to Fairplay because their array of frozen pizza and fries are endless. They stock the frozen foods like nothing else I’ve seen in other grocery stores. I do believe today we went at the wrong time of the month.

Fair play has raise their prices  on everything at the end of the month. Hmmm I wonder why that is the case? Things like frozen free pops, that you get warm but you freeze at home in your freezer were $1.69 for package are $1.99 this week. My husband wanted a deli sandwich but the lady who handles the deli counter isn’t very friendly. Customer service is lacking at this Fair play. I say when I got there I like to check out cheap deals for cake box mix, mayo and meats today I guess I went on the wrong day. Honestly, we go into Fairplay knowing we won’t enjoy shopping there it’s a place to get food items for a cheaper value. So we think unless it’s not Link card week.  I headed it to Pete’s Market after purchasing a few items.

Dollar Tree 3145 S Ashland Ave Chicago, IL 60608

 

O Dollar Tree O Dollar Tree I don’t know where I’d be without thee?

Never under estimate what you can get at the Dollar Tree store. I go there at least three time a month to let the kids shop for something fun with their allowance. I  stock up on my party table cloth, plastic table clothes and cleaning agents. I like to also pick up dog treats for our yorkie-poodle, Bogart. If I am feeling in a mood for snacks plenty to pick up almost too dangerous for me because I want the pretzels and chips. I have also been able to get last minute greeting cards for and birthday balloons too. They are have short waiting time for balloons than the Party city that is in the same plaza. I feel the dollar store has more to offer for a just $1.00 per item.

I have also been the big dollar tree store up in Hodgkins IL where they sell frozen foods and some refrigerated grocery store foods. They have a larger selection of kid’s activities and party supplies. It is very impressive stock on products you didn’t know you can get just for $1.00. My kids get excited when we head to the dollar tree it.  I’d encourage anybody who doesn’t shop at Dollar Tree stores to give it a try you can get some helpful household items for just $1 and it does the job. I know not everything we buy for $1 is durable that is why  I only buy items I know I will end up using and tossing out after one or two uses.