A Pastoral Perfect Picnic

It finally feels like summer in Chicago has arrived! Okay so it’s been a pretty rainy start to the season, but I’ll take humidity and big hair over puffy coats and snow any day. One of my favorite things that comes along with summer is eating al fresco. I don’t care if it’s on a patio, porch, or plopped down in the grass, if I’m eating outdoors I’m a happy camper.

As soon as the city got sunny, my favorite cheese shop in Chicago, Pastoral Artisan Cheese Bread and Wine reached out to me about their fabulous picnic basket offerings. Pastoral’s picnic professionals have come up with six different basket options that make hitting up movies in the park or an outdoor concert at Ravinia as easy as pie!

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The Chicago Food Lovers Gift Guide

People often ask me what they can get their food-loving friends for the holidays. So this year I put together a list of a bunch of items that I personally would love to get as a gift (or I already have and love) and I think the foodie in your life will too! I’ve broken out this foodie gift guide into six sections: home cooks, locavores, students, scientists, tipplers, and boxes/subscriptions.

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Baking Bread for Beginners

A lazy Sunday afternoon seemed like the perfect time to break out my new Hamilton Beach 6 Speed Stand Mixer* and bake my very first homemade loaf of bread. Baking has never come as easy to me as cooking. To me cooking is more forgiving and artistic, whereas baking is more of a precise science.

The other week I was watching a rerun of Ina Garten and low-and-behold she was baking up a storm per usual! Usually I can only dream about baking what she whips up, but this honey white bread recipe she was working on seemed like it would be an easy place to start.

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Meals Made Easy: Blue Apron

Meal Service Name: Blue Apron

Description: Originally worn by apprentice chefs in France, the Blue Apron has become a symbol of lifelong learning in cooking. Complete meals with 500-700 calories per serving, take on average 35 minutes to prepare, ingredients are pre-portioned to save time and reduce waste, and easy to follow beautifully printed recipe cards. Recipes focus on ingredients that are in season from artisanal purveyors, fresher than the supermarket, and specialty ingredients are provided that are hard to find in any old grocery store.

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Meals Made Easy: Plated.com

Meal Service Name: Plated.com

Description: Each week Plated comes up with five different recipes/menu options to choose from created by featured chefs. Plated provides all the ingredients and ships them directly to your door. Ingredients are portioned out, but aren’t chopped or prepared; you do all the prep work. Every meal includes one form of protein, a generous amount of fruits and veggies, and usually some sort of carbohydrate.

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Meals Made Easy: Meez Meals

Meez Meals: http://meezmeals.com/Home2/Index
Description:  Each week Meez comes up with five interesting new recipes.  Members pick the ones that sound great, and Meez will deliver all the ingredients prepped and ready to go.  When it’s time to cook, it’s like being a chef on the Food Network — everything is prepped and ready to cook, but members are the ones actually making the meal.

“The name Meez Meals was inspired by the cooking philosophy of Mise En Place – French for having everything ready to go when you’re ready to cook. We love the idea, but our French is challenged. So we went phonetic: Meez.” – Jen Moore

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Meals Made Easy: Kitchfix Foods

Meal Service Name: Kitchfix Foods
Description: Founder Chef Josh Katt and acclaimed Chef John Peters (Alinea, Trio, NAHA) create ready-to-eat nutrient-dense meals made with organic superfoods that are locally sourced, many right from Chef Josh’s rooftop garden. Kitchfix Foods’ nutrition philosophy is backed by progressive nutrition research and marked with a seal of approval from the company’s holistic-minded registered dietitian.

Location: Chicago!

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My First Encounter with SPAM and Why I Liked It!

Early morning before work the other week I dropped by Uncle Mike’s Place, a breakfast place in West Town known for their famous Filipino breakfast, to try out two new dishes they had for a limited time on their menu. Both of these dishes included SPAM. And not just any old SPAM, the two newest jalapeno and black pepper varieties to be exact.

My initial instinct when approached with writing about SPAM was to run for the hills. I’d never tried SPAM before, and had intended on keeping it that way, well for the rest of my life. But my sister asked me to humor her when said her client Hormel Foods was pairing up with Chicago restaurants to create new, flavorful dishes out of SPAM’s newest products.

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Uncle Dougie’s Sauces, Marinades, and Bloody Marys

The other week I got to meet Uncle Dougie himself, a local Chicago bbq sauce, spice rub, bloody mary mix, and marinade entrepreneur and head chef/owner of Uncle Dougie’s. Chef Dougie was kicking off the summer at the company headquarters in the West Loop where I had the chance to sample some of his homemade recipes using his all natural products.

Uncle Dougie has certainly been around the block, launching his original wing marinade in 1989 when he decided to find a way to make wings without the added fat and mess of frying. When neighbors and family started requesting his wings at parties he wasn’t even invited to, he decided that he really had something special on his hands and his small batch wing sauce and bbq business began!

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Chef 4 a Day Cooking Class

For a friends birthday this year TT#1 and I were invited to join her and her husband for an at-home cooking class at a chef’s house! The four of us often exchange restaurant stories and cooking ideas but none of us have any professional cooking experience. This was a perfect opportunity to put down a few bottles of wine while learning knife skills…don’t worry most of the wine came after the chopping!

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