Friday, July 18, 2014

Bubble (Boba) Shakes

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Last weekend I taught a Vietnamese Street Food class. It was such a fun time and I wanted to share another item we prepared. Being that it's Friday and I like ending the week on a sweet note, it was only fitting to share these Bubble (Boba) Shakes! Fresh fruit gets a fun whirl with ice and a touch of fruit juice before being poured over mini pearl tapioca 'bubbles' and served with a fat straw in a tall glass...

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Vietnamese Shrimp Spring Roll {Gỏi Cuốn}

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One of my favorite cuisines to enjoy in the hot summer months is Vietnamese Cuisine. The use of fresh herbs, cold or room temperature ingredients and the easy, laid back  style of preparation makes it perfect for those hot and lazy summer days. This past weekend I taught a Vietnamese Street Food class and it was so much fun! This week I'll be sharing some of the recipes we prepared in class. The first dish we made were the ever popular Vietnamese Shrimp Spring Roll {Gỏi Cuốn}. Steamed shrimp is nestled into a snug rice paper package filled with fresh mint, cilantro, Thai basil and cool rice noodles that is best enjoyed with a drizzle of Chinese hoisin and a sprinkling of crushed toasted peanuts...

Friday, July 11, 2014

Strawberry Key Lime Shortcakes

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A couple weeks ago, Joel and I hit the fields. The strawberry fields! It's been an annual place we go the past several years and a great way to help Joel appreciate agriculture. This year we left with several pounds and I've been having fun finding ways to use them up. Most recently, I made these Strawberry Key Lime Shortcakes for a post July 4th dinner we hosted. They were delicious and with plump sweet strawberries layered between fluffy clouds of fresh whipped cream and key lime kissed biscuits, how could they not be?!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Taste of Chicago Ticket Giveaway!

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Each year for as long as I remember, going to the Taste of Chicago was an annual event for my family. As I got older, schedule conflicts came up where I couldn't get my grub on. But it seems as though the Taste of Chicago has certainly gone through many changes and upgrades throughout the years as well. Sadly, I won't be able to go this year (again, due to schedule conflicts) to check out the 2014 Taste of Chicago but I would love to have a couple readers go and experience the fun on my behalf! In fact, I hear this year's Taste of Chicago Festival is a bit different from previous years with the addition of more restaurants, local food trucks and even some delicious healthier choices!


CONGRATULATIONS
to the 2 Taste of Chicago tickets winners...
Michelle [blog comment #7] 
Latasha [Facebook commenter]
messages will be sent to you directly to claim your tickets!

I've partnered up with the Humana Healthier Choices program, who have offered to award 2 random readers with tickets to the 2014 Taste of Chicago. Some things you can check out at this year's Taste Festival include:


  • Humana Healthier Choices Passport Guide: For the seventh consecutive year, Humana Healthier Choices provide a listing of healthy appetizers, entrees and desserts available at the Taste! This year boasts the largest listing yet – 52 foods from 29 Chicago restaurants that meet calorie, sodium and saturated fat nutritional criteria, reviewed by a panel of Chicago-area diet and nutrition experts. These healthful choices represent more than representing 44 percent of all vendors at this year’s food festival
The Humana Healthier Choices Passport Guide even allows Taste-goers to collect stamps by participating in wellness activities or sampling Humana Healthier Choice foods for a chance to win prizes, such as restaurant gift cards. The Humana Healthier Choices Passport Guide is available for free and can be picked up during the festival at the Humana tent – on Columbus Drive (between Jackson Boulevard and Buckingham Fountain) in Grant Park.

  • Charity Miles Partnership: New this year, Taste-goers can download the free Charity Miles app from iTunes or Google Play Store and wander the Taste of Chicago while giving back to their favorite charity. A participant’s charity of choice will be given $.25 for each mile biked, walked or ran. Humana’s contribution will be open to anyone who logs into the app in the Chicago metropolitan area starting on July 9 until the close of the 2014 Taste of Chicago on July 13.

  • Humana Power Hour with WXRT: To promote healthy activities at the Taste of Chicago, 93XRT will host a Power Hour from noon to 1 p.m. each day throughout the five-day event at the Humana Tent. 93XRT radio personalities will be on site to challenge consumers to “get off the couch” and participate in a Wii game, which will account for a Humana Healthier Choices Passport Guide stamp.
  • And if you love social media as much as I do, here are some social media details to add, follow and like!
o   #TasteofChi
o   Humana Twitter page – @Humana https://twitter.com/Humana
o   Humana Facebook page –  https://www.facebook.com/Humana
o   Taste of Chicago Facebook page –https://www.facebook.com/TheTasteOfChicago

A special thank you goes to Humana, who provided me with the above Humana Healthier Choices information and the Taste tickets that 2 lucky readers will win! Specifically, each winning reader will receive a total of 24 tickets ( 2 strips of 12 tickets)  to use during the Taste of Chicago. 


Contest has ended - thank you for playing!

If you would like to win some Taste of Chicago Tickets to enjoy this year's festival, please comment here or on our Facebook Page with your favorite Chicago food!


Winners will be chosen later today, July 8th and announced on this post and on our Facebook page at 9pm CST. Good Luck!

And with all the festivals and fairs happening this summer, I cannot stress enough how folks should carry hand sanitizer with them at all times. Often times, hand sanitizers leave a stinging sensation, partly due to the alcohol in them. It wasn't until I tried SafeHands Sanitizers that I became of fan of alcohol free hand sanitizers. SafeHands Sanitizers foam up and are non-toxic, making this especially great and safe for kids. And because there is no alcohol, it's also non-flammable which is important when we enjoy campfires and fire pits on cool summer nights. But probably my most favorite thing of all about SafeHands Sanitizers is that it moisturizes my hands while killing 99.99% of germs. So before you hit the festivals and fairs this summer, be sure to grab some hand sanitizer! Check out SafeHands for a great one to try!


I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Baja BLT Sandwich

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A new grocery store opened up in the area and of course, I had to check it out. It wasn't anything spectacular but I was pleased to find another place that I could purchase some good quality meats. While the store was celebrating with some good deals throughout, I couldn't pass up on the great sale they had on thick cut smoked bacon. I purchased a hefty pound (or so). It's been awhile since I made a good BLT sandwich and after some major eating over the holiday weekend, it was nice to have a semi-light dinner. It was bacon after all! However, this is not your typical BLT sandwich. Instead, this Baja BLT Sandwich incorporates some cheddar cheese and a healthy dollop of spicy guacamole with the usual suspects of bacon, lettuce and tomato...

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Swiss Chocolate Cherry Chip Ice Cream

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Isn't it great to have a short work week?! The long holiday weekend felt as if it couldn't come fast enough and I'm looking forward to some rest and relaxation with my boys for the next few days. There isn't much planned and if anything, it's all about going with the flow. I do plan on spending some time in the kitchen, only this weekend it will be much more therapeutic as opposed to 'work'. And if the weather remains warm, I may even churn up some new flavor combinations of ice cream! A recent flavor I made was this Swiss Chocolate Cherry Chip Ice Cream. Yes, it's a mouthful of a description and it sure was a delicious one at that. Creamy chocolate ice cream is studded with fresh ripe cherries and semi-sweet chocolate chips throughout to highlight a classic fruit and chocolate combo...


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Grilled Faves Round Up!

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It's hard to believe July is already here... and celebration planning for the July 4th holiday are underway. Have you got any fun plans to celebrate during the long weekend ahead?! We're taking it nice and easy with some much needed rest and relaxation - at least that's my plan. After the crazy whirlwind of the past weekend, I need a full weekend of no plans and obligations! If there is one thing I am looking forward to this holiday weekend, it's doing a majority of the cooking on the grill. I'm sure I'm not alone and many folks will look to their grill to get their delicious holiday spread prepared. 

In preparation for grilling season and the Fourth of July, Taste of HomeAmerica’s largest cooking magazine—has compiled 10 easy grilling tips.
1.     Clean the grill entirely—take out the grill grate, the burners and the grease trap. Check your manufacturer’s directions for the best way to do this. 
2.     Clean the grill grates to keep food from sticking. If you have a stainless steel or cast iron grate, preheat the grill and simply scrape with a wire brush. You can also place a piece of aluminum foil on top of the grate, turn the grill to medium, and close the lid. After 5 minutes, anything on the grate will burn off or scrape off easily with a wire brush.
3.     When heating up your grill, leave the vents open; this actually creates higher temperatures because fire needs oxygen to burn. Be sure to close up the vents for actual grilling,
4.     Know how hot your grill is. To determine the approximate temperature of your grill, carefully place your hand, palm side down, five inches above the grate and count the seconds you can comfortably hold your hand there.-- 2 or less: high (at least 450°)
-- 3-4: medium-high (400°)
-- 5-6: medium (350°)
-- 7-8: medium-low (300°) 
5.     Use tongs instead of a fork to turn foods. When grilling meat is punctured, the escaped juices from the meat could cause a flare-up (and you don’t want your hand three inches away when that happens!). 
6.     Resist the urge to press down on burgers while they’re grilling. By not pressing down on the burgers, you’ll keep all the juices inside. 
7.     If you’re grilling over charcoal, keep a spray bottle with water handy. A squirt or two directly on the coals should tame any flame. 
8.     Be food safe! Four smart ways to avoid cross contamination from raw to cooked food when grilling:-- Be sure to have a clean serving platter for cooked food at-the-ready—don’t use the one you used for carrying raw food out to the grill. -- Discard used marinade or always bring to a full rolling boil for at least one minute before using it to baste or as a sauce. --  Baste food only after it has been flipped once; this way if you’re basting with something like a sweet BBQ sauce, it won’t burn. -- Always marinate raw meat, poultry and seafood separately from produce. 
9.     Be sure to let meat and fish develop a seared crust before you try to flip them. Otherwise, you risk the food sticking to the grill and falling apart. 
10.  Try using unexpected ingredients—a quick turn on the grill gives items like leafy romaine hearts, pineapple slices, halved fresh peaches and avocados a great smoky flavor!

To get you thinking about what to put on your grill, here are 10 grilled recipes that would make for a delicious Fourth of July celebration! [Click on the titles below for the recipes!]

Honey Lime Chicken Fajitas









Bourbon Baby Back Ribs









Chipotle Lime Pork Ribs



Tuscan Lemon Chicken



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