A Farmers Market Salad

Now that summer has hit the city and I am dreaming of fall and cooler weather. I am one of a handful of people that like cold weather. Though there are some limitations to winter, you cannot tell me you cannot grill in the winter. 🙂

The one good thing that I like about summer is the Farmers Markets! Yesterday I went out at lunch and figured I would hit the farmers market at Daley Center and found a few tasty tidbits to make a wonderful salad. I also bought a couple of herb plants, basil and oregano. Lots of goodies in the near future.

A Farmers Market Salad Ingredients:
Yellow Zucchini
Green Zucchini
Sweet White Onion
Fresh Mozzarella
Heirloom Tomato
Green Leaf Lettuce
Fresh Basil (optional)
Balsamic Vinegar
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

I started with rinsing all the veggies, taking the lettuce and dabbing with a paper towel to get most of the excess water off and tearing it into bite size pieces. Cut about half of the zucchini’s and make thin half moon slices and place on top of the lettuce on a plate. Dice about 2 table spoons of the sweet onion and sprinkle over the zucchini. Dice half of a medium heirloom tomato and sprinkle over the plate. Top the salad with either half moon slices of or diced up mozzarella, splash with some balsamic vinegar and drizzle with the EVOO. I topped my salad with some basil that I just tore by hand into bits. Basil makes me think of the cooler days of summer, sitting out on a deck somewhere sipping on a White Grape Basil Refresher cocktail, more on that another time.

This salad is great for you since all the veggies you are consuming are fresh and raw, not to mention it is very low in sodium since you are not adding any salt other then what is already in the cheese and the veggies. The olive oil and vinegar I used have no sodium at all in it.

I know this is simple and not what most readers are use to, but I am slowly starting to get back into cooking mode after an office move and the heat chasing me from the kitchen. I am working on some gluten free recipes for readers that cannot have flour in your diet. Stay tune, I am trying to find resources for what is needed 🙂

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Easter and Honey Ham

Usually for Easter I have a leg of lamb, some roasted red potatoes, garlic bread, fresh green beans and something for dessert. Well this year was a bit different. First Easter in a few years I spent it alone, and it was great! My sister was too lazy to get up, my friend Rich was down with the “itis” at an Easter concert with his parents and well, no boyfriend this year so no other place to go.

My family’s tradition is to slather the ham in yellow mustard and put it in the oven for a couple of hours. My grandmother would do the clove treatment if and when she cooked ham (not on Easter).  I decided to go a different route. I found a recipe that called for spices to be blended in the honey but it did not indicate what kind of spices so I decided to wing it. I put a couple of pinches of all spice, a couple of pinches of nutmeg, a couple of pinches of ginger and a couple of pinches of cardamon. Not sure what the inspiration was, but the whole time I kept thinking exotic spices of the orient. I am half Chinese and I am always looking for an excuse to use these great spices I bought. So off to the store I went to get the ham, potatoes, spinach and some salad mix.

Menu for dinner was:

Spices honey ham
Sauteed Spinach with garlic and white wine
Smashed potatoes with the skins
Toasted bread and butter

Here is what you need for the ham:
1 shank or butt ham (I don’t know the difference other then they are labled as such)
1/2 cups of local clove honey (for those with flower allergies this is best)
Ground allspice
Ground nutmeg
Ground ginger
Ground cardamon

Take your ham from the packages and place in a roasting pan fat side up. Pour about

a cup of water in the bottom of the pan. Score the ham in 1 inch wide lines, making square shapes of the fat. You could also get fancy and make them into diamond shapes. Here you can add the cloves if you want a little more spice and place one in every other corner of the score marks. In a small pot melt the honey and add 2 pinches of each of the spices, blend well. Pour the honey mixture over the ham and place into a preheated oven at 350 degrees F. You do not need to cover the ham. Bast the ham ever 15 minutes for about an hour and a half then check the core temp. Once it reaches about 150 you can turn off the oven and let the ham rest in the oven for about 15 minutes, remove from the oven and let it rest another 10 minutes. Please remember to bast the ham though.


1 bag of baby spinach (serving for 2)
1 clove of garlic crushed through a garlic press
Pinch of sea salt
Pinch of fresh cracked black pepper
1/4 cup white wine (pinot grigio)

In a skillet heat the wine and crush the garlic into it. Once the wine starts to bubble ass the spinach and cover. Sprinkle the salt and pepper, then toss and serve. This is best done at the last minute so you can keep it warm.

Smashed potatoes:
3 russet potatoes wash thoroughly
Whole/2% milk or whipping cream
Sea salt
Pinch of fresh cracked pepper

Do not peel the skins off unless you don’t like them, dice your cleaned potatoes and place them in a pot, cover with water and sprinkle in about a teaspoon of sea salt. Bring the water to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. Drain the water from the pot, place the potatoes back on the heat and cook till the potatoes are a bit dry, add about a third of a stick of butter and add about 1/4 cup of milk or wh

ipping cream, pinch of sea salt and 2 pinches of pepper. Let the milk/cream come to a boil then removed from heat. Smash the potatoes by hand and serve.

For the toasted bread, just slice up your favorite French or Italian bread, butter and toast under the broiler, in a  hot oven or a toaster oven till golden brown and serve.


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Have you notice a mass posting lately? For those of you that follow my blog here, I have a blog on ChicagoNow.com as well and moved some of those blogs over here so I do not lose them when CN transitions to the WordPress. Going forward all recipes will be current and Hopefully will be able to get some photos installed. For now I will try and post a link to my Flickr account that will have a folder for each recipe with a step by step photo so you can follow along on your own and know you are not making any mistakes. Then again, when i write these blogs we do not care if you make a mistake, it is food after all! The worst thing you would do is over season or over cook and if you follow what I post you should not do any of these things. 🙂

Remember, this blog is all about making things simple 🙂


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Biscuits and Gravy the Southern (real) way!

Ever notice when you go to places that claim they have biscuits and gravy and all they have is this white lumpy stuff with sausage links chopped into it?  Well I am here to save you some traveling time and money and make some great souther sausage gravy at home.

All you will need is the following:
1 lb of breakfast sausage (your choice in brand)
Salt and pepper to taste
Canned biscuits, Bisquick or if you have your grandmothers recipe then go for it
Cast iron skillet.  If you do not have a cast iron skillet you can use any heavy bottomed skillet you might have.

Make your biscuits and place them in a basket with a towel to keep them warm!

Heat a cast iron skillet and brown your sausage and crumble, do not drain the grease!  Once your sausage is browned add about 2 tablespoons of butter to the pan and let melt.  Once the butter has melted you want to add about 2 tablespoons of flour to the sausage and butter mixture and cook for a couple of minutes until the flour starts to make a nice paste to the sausage.  Add about 3 to 4 cups of milk to the suasage, depending on your preference of thickness and if you like a lot of sausage in each scoop.  I prefer mine to have just enough so I put about 3 cups of milk.  Add some salt and pepper to taste and stir thoroughly, bringing the mixture to a boil.  Do not bring this to a roiling boil as this is a dairy dish and will tend to bubble up and over your pan.  Once you have brought it to a boil, lower the heat to about medium/low and cook until it has thickened.

Once your gravy has thickened it is time to serve.  I like to take a couple of biscuits and slice them open, place a scrambled egg on top and then add my gravy.  You can serve it the traditional way, just on top of the biscuits or if you do not have time place it on some toast.  Either way you cut or slice it, you will be sure to love it.

This is a recipe that has been made in my family for decades and I hope that it has brought fond memories of road trips to the south as it does for me every time I make it.


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Kabobs, it’s whats on the grill (or in the oven)

So, have you ever wanted to make those kefta kabobs you see floating around the Mediterranean  restaurants? Well, follow these easy steps and you too can have an awesome meat stuffing for those pita’s you bought on sale! LOL

OK, what you will need for this is dish is the following:
1.5 lbs of beef stew meat
One green bell pepper
One yellow bell pepper
One orange bell pepper
One red bell pepper
1 medium size vidalia onion
4 to 5 cloves of garlic minced
Fresh rosemary
Fresh lemon thyme (regular thyme is good to)
Fresh oregano (you can use dried, I did)
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Bamboo skewers
Greek yogurt
1/2 of a cucumber sliced very thin
1/4 of a red onion sliced thin

What you will need to start with is the meat so you can marinate it long enough for the fresh herbs to start penetrating it.  Take the rosemary, thyme, oregano and garlic, mince till they are fine and place into a medium size bowl with about 2 to 3 tbls of the olive oil.  Add the meat, sprinkle with about 1/2 tsp of salt, mix with your hands or a spoon and set aside to marry together.  Ok, so you want to let the meat marinate for about half an hour, you can also make this a day ahead to really let the herbs and meat marry.

Grab a small bowl and add about 1/2 C to 1 C of the Greek yogurt.  The amount really depends on how dense you want your sauce to be.  I like mine to have an equal balance of veggie and yogurt so I put in about 1/2 to 3/4 of the yogurt.  You want to start by peeling the cucumber, slice in half and seed it, then slice into thin moon shapes.  Grab your 1/4 of the red onion and slice this really thin and add to the yogurt with the cucumbers.  Peel and crush one clove of garlic and mine really fine, add to yogurt.  Once you have added all the ingredients, sprinkle with a bit of salt to taste and blend well.  Set this aside in the fridge till you are ready to serve.

You want to cut out the tops of the pepper, peel the onion and then roughly chop them into nice chunks to divide the meat on the skewers.  I happened to have some left over mushrooms from lunch so I cut them into quarters and added them to my skewers and it came out quite tasty so feel free to add or substitute veggies as you want.  One of the girls in my office used the bread cheese we can get at the farmers market downtown as a nice additive to her kabobs over the weekend and she said they were quite tasty.  Thanks Melissa O. for the added possibility this weekend 🙂

So now it is time to put these bad boys together.  It is rather easy, for the meat eater in your life just make some with all meat and they do not have to fight with the veggies 🙂  For the veggie lovers, you can make all veggie kabobs and just brush with some olive oil and sprinkle with some of the herbs.  Now for those of us that love the balance of meat and veggie, you want to alternate with the veggies and the meat.  I started with a nice chunk of the meat, a pepper, a couple of pieces of the onions and topped that off with a cube of the mushroom.  Just keep alternating till you have about 4 pieces of each (thus the 4 colors of the peppers) and set aside.  Once you have all the skewers completed, with exception to the all veggie ones, brush the kabobs with the olive oil and herb mixture that is left in the bowl.

Turn your oven all the way on and use your broiler pan if you have it, or you can cook these on a gas grill.  I would place the kabobs as close to the flames and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes a side.  The meat will dry out if you cook them too long.  Once you start to see that the meat is starting to char or getting that nice dark color it is time to turn them.  Once you have completely cooked, remove from the broiler or the grill and let rest.

This is a great dish for a BBQ or an outdoor gathering, will feed about 4 people so feel free to double the recipe for larger parties.  Hell, triple it if you’d like so everyone can have second.  You can serve this dish with warm pitas to make a sandwich or as a side along with some dill rice like most Mediterranean restaurants.   If you would like my recipe for the dill rice, check back when I make this recipe using lamb and some other fresh ingredients!


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Want to know what to do with a whole chicken? Greek it!

Yesterday while doing my usual shopping for lunch and dinner I decided to buy a whole chicken.  I went with the intentions of buying bone-in chicken breasts to make little pocket meals (blog another time) and when I saw the prices i was like eff that.  So for $5.50 I bought a whole Purdue chicken and just rinsed and stuffed.  This, by far, was the easiest thing to come up with while in the store and to make.  i call it Greek chicken because it incorporates some of the ingredients you find in most Greek style dishes.  I love chicken cooked any which way I can, whether it is marinated in some dressing or coated in bread crumbs and fried.  I certainly hope that you find this recipe easy and enjoy it as much as I did last night.

What you will need:
One whole chicken, do not cut!
4 to 6 cloves of garlic, peeled
A handful of fresh Oregano (half of the organic package from Dominick’s)
3 whole lemons
6 to 8 medium russet potatoes
Olive oil
Sea salt

To start, you will want to remove the packet from the center of the bird that holds the giblets and either set those aside in the freezer for making gravy or cook them up as a snack while waiting for the bird to cook.  Rinse the bird inside and out, pat dry with a couple of paper towels inside and out, set aside.

Dice up your potatoes in either spears, bite sized chunks or what ever you feel comfortable doing.  I prefer to leave the skins on, but you can feel free to peel them if you dislike eating it.  Place the potatoes in the bottom of a baking dish and set aside.

Take your bunch of of oregano and the peeled garlic and mince together.  Once it has been minced, add about 2 table spoons of the olive oil and grab your bird.  Stick your hands underneath the skin and begin stuffing some of the herb mixture around the legs, breast and the bottom half of the bird.  Stuff the cavity with the 3 lemons cut in half, place the bird into the baking dish on top of the potatoes and cover with foil.

Place the baking dish into a preheated oven at 350 degrees for about an hour.  You want to check the temp on the bird after about 45 to 50 mins.  If the breast is reading at 150, remove the foil and let the bird brown.  Once golden brown and reading a temp of no less then 173, (approximately 10 to 20 minutes) you can remove the bird from the pan and place on the foil you removed from it earlier.  Place the potatoes back into the oven and turn the heat to about 400 to 450 and roast the potatoes till they have turned a nice golden to brown color (approximately 10 to 15 minutes).

Please note that these times are based on a small, regular electric oven.  Temps do not change, but the times might if you are working with a gas or a convection type oven, so please keep checking the temp and do not let it get over 175 since it will continue to cook while the bird rests.  I would recommend that you use a thermometer you can place in the bird while cooking, if you have one.  Otherwise just check the bird every 10 minutes after the first 45 minutes have passed so you do not dry it out.

As always, feel free to contact me through the comments area if you need any help or want to give suggestions 🙂


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4 Heads Are Better Than 1

So a few years ago I attempted to make what is called 40 cloves of garlic with Chicken.  Let’s just say it was rough trying to be in the house with the lingering odor but you would not see a vampire within 10 yards of my apartment.  Needless to say I hadn’t attempted to make the dish again until I had the grand idea of buying a whole chicken that happen to have been on sale last week.

This past weekend I decided to attempt the dish again and had it for dinner on Monday.  This time the dish was much easier to make, mainly because I have gotten over my fear of cutting a whole chicken down to pieces that are easier to fry.  Let’s just say it was not a fear so much as my feeling the chicken should be roasted whole.  Ladies, this is a good time to bond with your boyfriends or hubbys, get them to help peel the garlic while you are cooking the chicken or peel together and have a nice conversation.  🙂

Anywho, the dinner last night was delicious to say the least, but I really wished I put potatoes in the bottom to absorb the garlicky yumminess that was simmering in the bottom of the pot!  Sorry there are no pictures, but I promise the next time I make this dish I will post some.

What you will need for this dish:
1 whole chicken cut into 8 pieces
10 sprigs of fresh thyme (I used the lemon thyme I am growing in my window box)
4 heads of garlic with the largest cloves peeled and the ends trimmed off (approx. 40 cloves but do not worry if you have less)
Sea salt
Black pepper
Olive Oil
Russet Potatoes (optional)

What you will need to do is cut your chicken into 8 pieces, much like you were going to do if you were frying it.  Rinse and pat dry the pieces, season with salt and pepper and place into a bowl with about 2 tbls of olive oil and toss.  Heat a dutch oven and brown your chicken a few pieces at a time.  Once all of your chicken has been browned, remove the skillet from the heat and add your sprigs of thyme and all the garlic.  If you are cooking the potatoes you will want to add them now.  I would rinse the potatoes and then cut into quarters or eighths fir this dish and about 4 to 5 small to medium potatoes should work.  Once you have added all of your herbs and potatoes, line the top with the chicken, cover and place into a preheated oven at 350 degrees for about an hour.

After about 45 minutes check the chicken, if you start to see the leg meat has started to shrink away from the bone it is done.  Place the lid back on the pot and let rest for about 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

As a side dish I recommend white rice, the Rice-A-Roni 4 Cheese rice, chicken flavored rice or just eat the meat and potatoes like most carnivores.


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