Saturday, December 10, 2011 cioppino.  Didn't go so good.  I went to Supreme Lobster (about half an hour each way) to get my seafood. I spent about $25 on the seafood.  Clams (in the shell and strips), mussels, squid, med shrimp, cod, and bay scallops.  I followed Rachel Ray's recipe.  But, of course, I made a couple of changes.  I think that was part of the problem.  I should have added 2 cans of tomatoes and not one.  I also should have scrubbed the shells...there was grit.  Grit is gross.

Here is the recipe....and I added my changes.  I also have pictures of the steps to make this.  I will try it again sometime.....


  • 1/4 cup (3 turns around the pan in a slow stream) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 to 3 flat fillets of anchovies, drained
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup good quality dry white wine
  • 1 cup clam juice
  • 1 (14-ounce) container chicken stock
  • 1 (32-ounce) can chunky style crushed tomatoes (next time I will use 2 cans)
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 pounds cod, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 med shrimp, peel and devein
  • 1/4 lb bay scallops
  • 16 to 20 raw mussels, scrubbed
  • 10 clams
  • 1/4 lb raw clam strips
  • 3 squid tubes - cut into smaller circles
  • A loaf of fresh, crusty bread, for mopping


In a large pot over moderate heat combine oil, crushed pepper, anchovies, garlic, thyme leaves and bay. Let anchovies melt into oil. The anchovies act as a natural salt, the pepper flakes will infuse the oil, providing heat.
Chop celery and onion near stove and add to the pot as you work. Saute vegetables for a few minutes to begin to soften and add wine to the pot. Reduce wine a minute, then add chicken stock,clam juice and tomatoes. Bring sauce to a bubble and reduce heat to medium low.
Season fish chunks with salt and pepper. Add fish and clams and simmer 5 minutes, giving the pot a shake now and then. Do not stir your soup with a spoon after the addition of fish or you will break it up. Add shrimp, clam strips, scallops, squid, mussels and cover pot. Cook 10 minutes, giving the pot a good shake now and again.
Remove the lid and discard any mussels or clams that do not open. Carefully ladle stew into shallow bowls and pass bread at the table.
The anchovies just melt away into the oil.

I wish these screens could be a scratch and sniff.  WOW!!!

Now the tomatoes, chicken stock, clam juice and white wine are added.

Clams and fish added.

Finished product!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Easy dinner fact it might as well be an advertisement for Trader Joe's.  I made what we, in our family, call "Orange chicken". You know how each family has their own vocabulary for certain things?  This is one of our dishes in our family food dictionary.  It is boneless, skinless chicken breasts in masala simmering sauce served with greek 0% fat yogurt, nan bread, and mango chutney....and everything for this dinner can be bought in one place....TJ's.  Perfect for a family on the run.

Here's how it went.  Our son "lost" his winter coat.  I don't know HOW this happened....he had it just 1 month ago....but now it can't be found.  We have checked on the regular spots. Everywhere in the house, grandparent's house, school, the car, friend's homes....nowhere.  So we decided to suck it up and get him another coat.  This had to be done after school but before basketball practice. Luckily, the coat shopping was quick and stopping at one store to buy everything to make dinner made it all quicker.

Just follow the recipe on the bottle of masala simmer sauce for the chicken, follow the directions for the nan bread.  And you and your family are ready to eat a yummy dinner.  This is another meal that everyone eats.
See all the goodness on my plate?  Yum!!!

Stay tuned for tomorrow's dinner...cioppino.  I will be going to Supreme Lobster tomorrow to get all the fresh seafood I need for this.  I have never made this come back and check this out......wish me luck.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Made stir fry tonight for dinner.  Broccoli, water chestnuts, garlic, onions, carrots and pork.  I made a sauce of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, brown sugar, corn starch and sesame oil.
First I steam the broccoli for about 10 minutes (my middle daughter likes her broccoli soft).  While it was steaming, I cut thin sliced pork chops into smaller pieces.  Then I added in the carrots, minced garlic and onions and let all that cook together.  I added to broccoli to that and the water chestnuts as well.  The sauce I made by just adding the soy sauce (about 1/2 cp), 1/3 cp rice wine vinegar, and 1/4 cp brown sugar.  Stir it so that everything gets coated and the sugar melts.  I then sprinkle in about 1 t cornstarch.  Stir it all well so there are no lumps.  Turn the heat up so it boils briefly, then turn down the stove so it cools and gets thicker.  Right before I serve it, I add 1/4 t  sesame oil.  We try not to have carbs, so I don't serve it with any rice, but it certainly would be great with it!!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Not much time to make a full dinner and to eat and enjoy it (got home at 6:15 and had to leave by 7p) so I made one of the easiest dinners I could.  I picked up marinated skirt steaks from Dorfler's and roasted brussel sprouts and sweet potatoes.  I really wanted to roast asparagus, but I went to get it and it was gross (soft and wrinkled, and the ends were brown.  These are all signs of not fresh asparagus).  I wish I would have planned ahead and picked it up at work. Also, I like to grill the meat, but I couldn't get my bbq to work and didn't have time to deal with it.  Instead of the grill, I used a grill pan on the stove top.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Restaurant Review - Sprout, Chicago, IL

We went out for such a special dinner last night to celebrate our friends' 40th birthday (Dave and Susan's birthdays are 3 days apart).  We went to Sprout on Fullerton in Chicago....the executive chef is Dale Levitski from Top Chef.
Here is a picture of him to remind you which one he is -
Sprout Restaurant Chicago - Executive Chef Dale Levitski

And he was always around - popping in and out of the kitchen.  I even talked with him about the idea of trying to get onto Next Food Network Star.....he talked about the isolation and extreme monitoring.  He said the only way he would go back for a third time to Top Chef is if it was only for 1-2 days....not the 5 weeks that he was away before.  What a nice guy!

We had a great server as well.  Christopher. I love when the folks that work at restaurants of this caliber know their stuff - and he does.  About the wines, about the ingredients, about the restaurant in general.  VERY impressive. And not in a snobby way either....but in a way that he wants to share it all with you so you enjoy your time there even more.

And our room was AMAZING!  Dave reserved it - I don't know how he knew about it....but he did and it was so special.  It made us feel like the whole place was just for us.  It was isolated and quiet.  Just the 6 of us and Christopher when he stopped in.
Here was our room....see the porthole into the kitchen?  Very cool!!  And a gorgeous chandelier you can just see the bottom of in the picture.  It had a high ceiling, which also added to the specialness of this room. 
We decided to do the tasting menu....since there were 6 choices on the first course of the meal, we just ordered one of each and passed it around the table for everyone to taste everything.
Lolla Rosa (did you know it is a kind of lettuce??  We didn't. Cheryl had to look it up to find out what it was.)  See that sweet potato looking piece right there? It is red kuri.  A kind of squash (Christopher told us that).  And you can also see the slices of apple. Yum

Foie gras....know what that is??  Fatty duck liver.  And it is not a very kind way it is generated.  In fact for while in Chicago, it was banned.  I liked this though.  The disc on the right was smooth, almost like a butter.  The canoli stuffed with foie was good.  I always like food with contrasting textures and this was that for sure!

I liked this shrimp dish.  There are black eyed peas on this plate and those were great.  I like the way they hold their  firmness when cooked.  

This was SO yummy.  I could have a huge bowl of this on a cold day and been very happy.  It has mussels, salmon, and sirloin.  I loved the broth.  Very comforting.

Veal dish....tasty.

This was the surprise dish for me.  This was served with a peppermint vinaigrette.  Yes...peppermint.  And it also has fresh licorice root grated over it. I think it was served with butter lettuce.  Very soft lettuce.  You can see thin slices of pear and goat cheese on the salad too.  Very yummy.  I liked the plate just to taste the dressing again.  I have no shame when it comes to food....and I openly admit it!!!

This was a surprise small course.  This was a chantrell mushroll and apple creamed soup.  It was ok.  I didn't even finish this little bit.  Too rich for me and very mild flavors. 

For our entrees, we had 7 choices.  We decided to to this course individually, instead of bite and pass like we did with the first course. So we each chose our own which came to 3 of the main courses. But we all tasted each others.
This was the venison dish.  I liked this one the best.  Which surprised me that I still chose this dish over the others, since the first time I had venison was in Toronto only about 1 month ago.  This venison was from New Zealand and was so tender.  It was served with a chestnut and turnip puree (see it poking out on the top left of the meat?) and with a huckleberry reduction.  

Short ribs here....melts in your mouth.

Christopher called this Pork-a-polooza.....and it was just that. There is  pork bread pudding and celery root puree.  Also slices of pork rubbed with a mixture I don't remember, but loved.  See the flat white thing on top....ricotta.  Not sure why it was there.  All the men liked this the best.

Surprise course here of grilled cheese and cherry mustard.  In the cheese was sliced apples.  And see how the cheese oozed out of the top and got hard (you can see when the bread stops, but the cheese kept going).  Dale said this is one of the biggest crowd pleasers, but one of the simplest things he makes.
Time for the dessert course.  There were 4 choices, but the six of us only ordered 2 of the choices.....but we all got a small glass of hard apple cider.  Now that was DELICIOUS.  So much so that we ordered a bottle of it (22 oz bottle) for the table.  J.K. Scrumpy's Hard Apple Cider.  OMG.....
In writing, this one sounded the best. Chocolate with peanuts, maple cream and bananas.  The maple cream was a bit too rich and it was served with banana bread and I think the pieces of banana were cooked in maple syrup.  It was ok.

This was the table winner of desserts.  This was a root beer crepe (yes, root beer) with apples and bacon inside.  And see that toffee.  We loved it so much, that Christopher brought us another ramekin of it just to snack on.  Put a piece of this toffee with swig of the hard apple cider in your mouth and the result is pure joy.  Favorite quote of the night "My mouth is happy" - Cheryl.  And I could not agree more!!!!