Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

The most pleasurable moments in my life are often consumed around a table, eating a good meal, talking, laughing, remembering “when”. Such pleasure was had on Saturday night, dining with family on several familial sides, from two East Coast states, as we met at one of the most venerable restaurants still operating on Route 66.

You might remember when I first wrote about the Mother Road, Route 66, a few years ago, citing its starting point on Chicago’s lakefront, which is but a few dozen miles from our house here on the Cutoff.  Several of you commented about time you spent on the “mother road”. Others of you realized, perhaps, that it was more than a television show or tall tale; it was a road often traveled, traversing the wide open spaces of another era. Route 66 was a route, now decommissioned, that connected small towns and bits of wonders across the wide expanse of USA country. I meant to write again about this iconic route, but, well, life took other turns in my writing road, until this weekend.

Along with brother-in-law Mike, in from the Sunshine State, and nephew Andrew’s brother and sister-in-law, from the Big Apple, eleven of us gathered at White Fence Farm in Romeoville, on old Route 66,  for a sinfully scrumptious meal, served family style, with corn fritters, slaw, pickled beets, cottage cheese, bean salad – and, the restaurant’s signature fried chicken.

It was heartwarming to not only catch-up on what was happening in our lives, but, to have our two grand-nephews participate in the lively art of family conversation as they laughed at grown-up’s stories, all entertaining, others downright hilarious (like grandpa Mike’s articulate rendition of his dog’s encounter with peacock droppings or late night stand offs with a gecko – uh oh).

Good memories were gathered to keep close to the heart along with a few photos of all that was consumed, including a few cute chickens among the antiques and memorabilia in White Fence Farm.


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DSCN5735No, not my fault. Clifford made me do it. He was my auto-pilot on the long journey home from Minnesota last week. Someone to keep me company on the long journey, compliments of a very sweet granddaughter who knows all about true love.  Well, this determined dog suddenly steered toward the off-ramp at Osseo in Wisconsin.

What? Norske Nook?  You want to go to Norske Nook, Clifford?”

So , we did. I blamed it on Cliff.

It all started when Andra Watkins, author of “To Live Forever, An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis”, and I had a bit of an ongoing, online conversation about Norske Nook,. Her husband, MTM, a native of Wisconsin enjoys their pies. I asked dear son-in-law Tom, also a Wisconsin native, about which exit to take.  Clifford must have IMG_20140904_222407been listening.  Katy sure was for she piped in and said pie sounded good right then. Lickedy-split, the two us were out the door,, at 10 pm, on a mission to Baker’s Square, which led to this photo of me and cherry pie.  Really.

The next day, enroute to the Cutoff, with Clifford steering, we took the road less traveled and ended up bringing this big box home.

DSCN5736Inside was this most delicious blueberry pie ever. THE BEST I’ve ever eaten. Not overly sweet, it was filled with the smallest of blueberries and had most tender crust. I shared half of it with a friend recovering from a hip replacement. I swear, she danced a jig with her walker after eating a slice.

It wasn’t my fault.DSCN5737

With all this pie, I needed an antidote – eating veggies was imperative. I saw a cooking segment for stuffed tomatoes and this delicious entrée managed to make it to our table. I improvised, but, it is basically stuffed with some sort of sausage (I used Italian, chorizo would work, or stuff it with other seasonal vegetable, quinoa, you name it), cheese, bread crumbs, baked and topped with eggs, which slipped off of their perch because I zealously overstuffed the tomatoes. 350 degree oven, 20 minutes or so.

I need to go for a walk. My smart phone in my pocket. It very intelligently tracks my steps. I wonder if there is app for making supper. Maybe Clifford knows.

What is your favorite pie? Do you like stuffed vegetables? tomatoes, peppers, zucchini? What do you stuff them with? Are you stuffed right  now?


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002008There I was, walking around Jackson Square Mall in downtown La Grange with three of my very dear friends;  antique sleuths, each and every one. We were talking and teasing, “Penny, you really need to have this” or “my mother had one of these” in the companionable way of old friends.

As we walked toward my favorite booth crammed with used books, nestled in a nook that was probably a closet in a previous life, I squeezed in and I glanced up at the cookbooks. in the far corner.  What should be staring back?  “The Stillmeadow Cookbook” by Gladys Taber. Well, dear reader, Gladys’ book jumped into my greedy little hands like a puppy who’s been left home alone all afternoon. Squeaking like a mouse, I gingerly opened the pages of this well-preserved, hard bound edition – and promptly declared it was mine, all mine!

You may recall that I adore Gladys Taber and her writings about Stillmeadow Farm. My introduction to her was at the very same Jackson Square Mall where this cookbook emerged, on the same shelf where my first introduction to Gladys Taber’s words was.  When I wrote that first post, I quickly learned through generous comments of others that there were more than 50 books written by Gladys Taber and that there was well-establish organization of Taber fans;  aptly called the Friends of Gladys Taber. I keep meaning to sign up for their newsletter, which I understand is quite wonderful.

Since that first discovery of Gladys Taber and her common sense wisdom and wit and words that are filled with the simpler things in life and country living, I have acquired a baker’s dozen worth of her homespun books, filled with stories and articles that were published in the likes of Good Housekeeping Magazine and other periodicals. How I miss those days of short story installments and serial essays that used to be in women’s magazines. Ah well, dear friend, those days are past, but, we can still find words in books, some of which sit patiently on shelves in used book stores and booths, just waiting to be discovered.




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DSCN4406I could not have asked for a more pleasant Easter, full of all its hopes and promise. The air warmed as the day rose. We opened windows and doors, inviting the outside in. We were surrounded by the gift of family as greetings of Happy Easter, Christos Anesti, and Shalom went from lip to cheek through the portal of celebration; each bringing different belief systems and varied customs, each carrying a plate or platter, box or bag, filled with sustenance to nourish our bodies in this season of nourishing our souls.

I am always my most content, as you, dear reader, surely know, when folks are gathered around our long, worn wooden table. This Easter, we  also used the table in our cozy dining room as we served our meal buffet-style. This glass table came from our dear friend Marilyn, who wondered to me several years ago if one of our daughters might want it? I jumped at the chance and said “No, me. Pick me! I need it” and she did. It has been with grateful delight that we sit around this airy orb in our little glass room on $59 upholstered chairs from T.J. Maxx.

We ate and talked and reminisced, as families tend to do. We laughed and commiserated over pastichio and turkey, salad and ann array of vegetables, Italian sweet bread, Greek Easter Bread and potato rolls. Our meal was followed by every type of sweet, from diples and baklava, to karidopeta, lemon pound cake and shortbread. Can you see my waist expanding?

Those who could not be with us were with us just the same. Ted pulled down my framed photo of the “club girls”, and we pointed and named and recalled the years these women gathered to play cards. We ate on Tom’s mother Carolyn’s Brown Eyed Susan plates using her Coronation flatware. A bouquet of iris from Tom sat in a treasured Crate and Barrel ribbon vase, as Heather arranged a spray of roses she brought that seemed to be tailor made to sit atop a well much-used tablecloth.

Sitting, rather contentedly I thought, in Tom’s grandmother’s (or was it his great grandmother’s?) rocking chair, was the bunny Kezzie gave us to take home before we left her house in Minnesota last Sunday. I have picked it up for a cuddle or two and nuzzled in to its soft cloth belly to catch a scent of our Kezzie-kins, reminded me of The Velveteen Rabbit. Isn’t it sweet when children give us their treasures to take with us?

Here is hoping you had a pleasant weekend with all the hope and promise of this season.


Iris from Tom and Keizzie's bunnyDSCN4402DSCN4396DSCN4413

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A poet could write volumes about diners, because they’re so beautiful. They’re brightly lit, with chrome and booths and Naugahyde and great waitresses. Now, it might not be so great in the health department, but I think diner food is really worth experiencing periodically.  David Lynch


Denver omelets and grilled cheese sandwiches. Swiss steak with mashed potatoes and gravy. Being recognized by name with “Hi, Hon. Howyadoin’ today?” by the waitress as she pours your coffee into a thick, white mug. The cook, his papered head showing over the half wall of the grill, starts your order as soon as he hears you say it, the stub from the waitress just a reminder of whether to add Swiss or cheddar at the end.

With all our fancy, four starred, gourmet restaurants – gastronomical emporiums that I certainly have enjoyed – I think it is the homespun diner that I love the best, especially during a cold, white winter such as 2014 has been. Our favorite diner is Cafe Calbay, just around the corner from the “main drag”, across the street from the train station, a block from the post office, and on the way to anywhere I need to be.

How about you? Is there a diner, cafe, local restaurant where someone knows you name is Hon, Sweetie, of Dear?

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It rained on the January day we closed the deal, buying this rambling old house on the Cutoff. We finished packing and cleaning up our old house during a snowfall, then moved in on a Saturday. Remarkably, moving in day brought just enough warmth to melt most of the snow and allowed us and the movers to haul all our possessions without trudging through sludge and slosh and snow. It was nine years ago now. Funny how time goes by in a whisper.

My friend Sue helped us move in, bringing a big container of chocolate chip cookies along. She unpacked boxes in DSCN3980our big kitchen, and started putting pots and pans in cabinets, silverware in just the right drawer, and the cheerful Brown Eyed Susan dishes I inherited from Tom’s mother in the glassed in cabinet across from the sink, which is where they still rest when not in use. In fact,  I have not moved anything from where Sue put it.

I had packed food from the freezer into a few big ice chests, thinking about what I might make for dinner in the new house on our first night.  So, out came some chicken, a can of tomato paste, a bag of square Greek noodles and a big pot to make some Greek chicken stew;  a simple dish with a distinct aroma that ushered one home into another as it bubbled in our homey kitchen.

The stove was big and functional.  We decided not to replace it. It was certainly used, but, serviceable, although one of the knobs looked just a bit distorted. I wondered about it as I turned on a burner and made that first meal, but, I knew the stove had been used to feed the very large family of the precious owners

As the years wore on, I discovered what had happened to the knob. It seemed that every-so-often the oven door wouldn’t quite close, except if I had a cake in the oven, which was when it would not quite open.  A little squirt of cooking spray seemed to do the trick when it wouldn’t open, and I learned to check the door to see how it hinged before putting in a cake – or turkey. One or two squirts meant a door that opened easily. It also meant a door that didn’t quite close.

As the years wore on, the knobs on the stove slowly morphed into peculiar shapes. Cooking heat was escaping the oven with increasing regularity. I could only hazard a guess at where 350° was – only because it was where the knob was most deformed.  Then, with a very hot oven near the holidays, I burnt my fingertips turning on a burner forgetting the oven door was ajar.

DSCN3999The time had most definitely come to replace the stove, commencing with appliance shopping that brought about memories of stoves in lifetimes past earlier this month. This shopping was done in between snowstorms, a purchase made and a date for delivery was set, and then reset because of dangerous weather conditions. These frigid temperatures have wreaked havoc on so many activities, including deliveries of all sorts of things.

Finally, on a Saturday,  when much of the snow had melted and delivery men could travel safely, our new stove arrived, complete with an oven door that opens, and closes properly, knobs that are well-marked and don’t resemble wontons, and a myriad of other culinary uses that I didn’t even know I missed – until I had them back.

As the temperatures and snow continued to batter our area, I have been as content as a pig on the 4th of July, baking and cooking with my efficient new stove, including a batch of chocolate chip cookies, which I made this afternoon, thinking of my friend Sue and her help on that moving day, nine years ago.

What have you been cooking or baking lately? Have you ever had a stove that had seen better days?

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Fresh pastaFor my birthday, Jennifer treated me to an afternoon at the newly opened Eataly Chicago. It is a gastronic extravaganza with two floors of anything and everything relating to Italian food. While most items were a bit pricey in nature, it was still fun to explore this indoor marketplace, with a Nutella Bar, several restaurants, esperesso stations, fresh fruits and vegetables, cheese, wine – oh, the list goes on and on. Let me just say that it is a fun experience and a place to go if you are looking for a specialty cooking ingredient or item. The photo above is of fresh pasta, and below are a few of the scenes we encountered.


Making mozzarella cheese.


A pear and chocolate Pannetone.

Panetonne:Pear & Chips

Pastries and chocolates, fruit and vegetables, you name it, Eataly has it. Do you have a specialty market in your area?





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